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by the same author 


by Ernst Troehsch 








Tutor in Economics, Harvard University 








This book is copyright under the Berne Convention 

No portion of it may be reprodttced by 
any process without written permission. 
Inquiries to be addressed to the publisher 



Translator's Preface jl. j \N 3 L. j^ 

Foreword C C P , ^ i 

Author's Introduction 13 




I. Religious Affiliation and Social Stratification 35 

II. The Spirit of Capitalism 47 

III. Luther's Conception of the Calling. Task of the 

Investigation 79 



IV. The Religious Foundations of Worldly Asceticism 95 

A. Calvinism 98 

B. Pietism 128 

C. Methodism 139 

D. The Baptist Sects 144 

V. Asceticism and the Spirit of Capitalism 155 

Notes 185 

Index 285 



Max Weber's essay, Die protestantische Ethik und der 
Geist des Kapitalismus, which is here translated, was 
first pubHshed in the Archil für Sozialwissenschaft und 
Sozialpolitik^ Volumes XX and XXI, for 1904-5. It 
was reprinted in 1920 as the first study in the ambitious 
series Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Religionssoziologie, 
which was left unfinished by Weber's untimely death 
in that same year. For the new printing he made 
considerable changes, and appended both new material 
and replies to criticism in footnotes. The translation 
has, however, been made directly from this last edition. 
Though the volume of footnotes is excessively large, 
so as to form a serious detriment to the reader's 
enjoyment, it has not seemed advisable either to omit 
any of them or to attempt to incorporate them into 
the text. As it stands it shows most plainly how the 
problem has grown in Weber's own mind, and it 
would be a pity to destroy that for the sake of artistic 
perfection. A careful perusal of the notes is, however, 
especially recommended to the reader, since a great 
deal of important material is contained in them. The 
fact that they are printed separately from the main text 
should not be allowed to hinder their use. The 
translation is, as far as is possible, faithful to the text, 
rather than attempting to achieve any more than 
ordinary, clear EngHsh style. Nothing has been altered, 
and only a few comments to clarify obscure points and 
to refer the reader to related parts of Weber's work 
have been added. 
The Introduction, which is placed before the main 

R ix 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

essay, was written by Weber in 1920 for the whole series 
on the Sociology of Religion. It has been included in 
this translation because it gives some of the general 
background of ideas and problems into which Weber 
himself meant this particular study to fit. That has 
seemed particularly desirable since, in the voluminous 
discussion w4iich has grown up in Germany around 
Weber's essay, a great deal of misplaced criticism has 
been due to the failure properly to appreciate the scope 
and limitations of the study. While it is impossible 
to appreciate that fully without a thorough study of 
Weber's sociological work as a whole, this brief intro- 
duction should suffice to prevent a great deal of 

The series of which this essay forms a part was, as 
has been said, left unfinished at Weber's death. The 
first volume only had been prepared for the press by 
his own hand. Besides the parts translated here, it 
contains a short, closely related study, Die pro- 
testantischen Sekten und der Geist des Kapitalismus', a 
general introduction to the further studies of particular 
religions which as a whole he called Die Wirtschafts- 
ethik der Weltreligionen ; and a long study of Confucian- 
ism and Taoism. The second and third volumes, which 
were published after his death, without the thorough 
revision which he had contemplated, contain studies 
of Hinduism and Buddhism and Ancient Judaism. 
In addition he had done work on other studies, notably 
of Islam, Early Christianity, and Talmudic Judaism, 
which were not yet in a condition fit for publication 
in any form. Nevertheless, enough of the whole series 
has been preserved to show something of the extra- 

Translator's Preface 

ordinary breadth and depth of Weber's grasp of 
cultural problems. What is here presented to English- 
speaking readers is only a fragment, but it is a fragment 
which is in many ways of central significance for 
Weber's philosophy of history, as well as being of very 
great and very general interest for the thesis it advances 
to explain some of the most important aspects of 
modern culture. 


Cambridge, Mass., U.S.A. 
January 1930 



Max Weber, the author of the work translated in the 
following pages, was a scholar whose intellectual 
range was unusually wide, and whose personality made 
an even deeper impression than his learning on those 
privileged to know him. He had been trained as a 
jurist, and, in addition to teaching as a professor 
at Freiburg, Heidelberg, and Munich, he wrote on 
subjects so various as ancient agrarian history, the 
conditions of the rural population of Prussia, the 
methodology of the social sciences, and the sociology 
of religion. Nor were his activities exclusively those 
of the teacher and the student. He travelled widely, 
was keenly interested in contemporary political and 
social movements, played a vigorous and disinterested 
part in the crisis which confronted Germany at the 
close of the War, and accompanied the German 
delegation to Versailles in May 1919. He died in 
Munich in the following year, at the age of fifty-six. 
Partly as a result of prolonged ill-health, which com- 
pelled him for several years to lead the life of an invalid, 
partly because of his premature death, partly, perhaps, 
because of the very grandeur of the scale on which he 
worked, he was unable to give the final revision to 
many of his writings. His collected works have been 
published posthumously. The last of them, based on 
notes taken by his students from lectures given at 
Munich, has appeared in English under the title of 
General Economic History} 

' Max Weber, General Economic History, trans. Frank H. Knight, 
Ph.D. (George Allen & Unwin). A bibliography of Weber's writings is 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

f The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism was 
published in the form of two articles in the Archiv für 
Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik in 1904 and 1905.) 
Together with a subsequent article, which appeared 
in 1906, on The Protestant Sects and the Spirit of 
Capitalism^ they form the first of the studies contained 
in Weber's Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Religionssoziologie. 
On their first appearance they aroused an interest which 
extended beyond the ranks of historical specialists, and 
which caused the numbers of the Archiv in which they 
were published to be sold out with a rapidity not very 
usual in the case of learned publications. The discussion 
which they provoked has continued since then with 
undiminished vigour. For the questions raised by 
Weber possess a universal significance, and the method 
of his essay was as important as its conclusions. It not 
only threw a brilliant light on the particular field which 
it explored, but suggested a new avenue of approach to 
a range of problems of permanent interest, which 
concern, not merely the historian and the economist, 
but all who reflect on the deeper issues of modern 

The question which Weber attempts to answer is 
simple and fundamental. It is that of the psychological 
conditions which made possible the development of 
capitalist civilization. Capitalism, in the sense of great 
individual undertakings, involving the control of large 
financial resources, and yielding riches to their masters 

printed at the end of the charming and instructive account of him 
by his widow, Max Weber, Ein Lebensbild, von Marianna Weber 
(J. C. B. Mohr, Tübingen, 1926), See also tlconomistes et Historiens: 
Max Weber, un komme, une ceuvre, pqr Maurice Halbwachs, in 
Annales d'Histoire ^conomique et Sociale, No. i, January, 1929. 



as a result of speculation, money-lending, commercial 
enterprise, buccaneering and war, is as old as history. 
Capitalism, as an economic system, resting on the V^cxUr 
organisation of legally free wage-earners, for the purpose 
of pecuniary profit, by the owner of capital or his agents, 
and setting its stamp on every aspect of society, is a 
modern phenomenon. 

All revolutions are declared to be natural and 
inevitable, once they are successful, and capitalism, as 
the type of economic system prevailing in Western 
Europe and America, is clothed to-day with the 
unquestioned respectability of the triumphant fact. 
But in its youth it was a pretender, and it was only 
after centuries of struggle that its title was established-» 
For it involved a code of economic conduct and 
a system of human relations which were sharply 
at variance with venerable conventions, with the 
accepted scheme of social ethics, and with the law, 
both of the church and of most European states. So 
questionable an innovation demanded of the pioneers 
who first experimented with it as much originality, 
self-confidence, and tenacity of purpose as is required 
to-day of those who would break from the net that it 
has woven. What infl u ence n erved t hem to defy 
tradition? From what source did th ey der ive the 
-^principles to repKce it ? " '^ i 

The conventional answer to these questions is to 
deny their premises. The rise of new forms of economic 
enterprise was the result, it is argued, of changes in 
• the character of the economic environment. It was due 
to the influx of the precious metals from America in 
the sixteenth century, to the capital accumulated in 

* 1(C) 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

extra-European commerce, to the reaction of expanding 
markets on industrial organisation, to the growth of 
population, to technological improvements made pos- 
sible by the progress of natural science, Weber's reply, 
which is developed at greater length in his General 
Economic History than in the present essay, is that such 
explanations confuse causes and occasions. Granted 
that the economic conditions of the sixteenth and 
seventeenth centuries were, in some respects, though by 
no means in all, unusually favourable to an advance in 
economic technique, such conditions had existed from 
time to time in the past without giving birth to the 
development of capitalist industry. In many of the 
regions affected by them no such development took 
place, nor were those which enjoyed the highest 
economic civilization necessarily those in which the 
new order found its most congenial environment. The 
France of Louis XIV commanded resources which, 
judged by the standards of the age, were immense, but 
they were largely dissipated in luxury and war ^The 
"America of theeTghteertth CiJfltUty was economically 
primitive, but it is in the maxims of Franklin that the 
spirit of bourgeois capitalism, which, rather than the 
grandiose schemes of mercantilist statesmen, was to 
dominate the future, finds, Weber argues, its naivest 
and most lucid expression. 

To appeal, as an explanation, to the acquisit ive 
nstincts, is even less pertinent, for there is little reason 
to suppose that they have been more powerful during 
'?!k.the last fe\y centuries than in earlier ages. "The notion 
that our rationalistic and capitalistic age is characterised 
by a stronger economic interest than other periods is 



childish. The moving spirits of modern capitaUsm are 
not possessed of a stronger economic impulse than, for 
example, an Oriental trader. The unchaining of the 
economic interest, merely as such, has produced only 
irrational results: such men as Cortes and Pizarro, 
who were, perhaps, its strongest embodiment, were far 
from having an idea of a rationalistic economic life." ' 
The word "rationalism" is used by Weber as a term 
of art, to describe an economic system based, not on 
custom or tradition, but on the deliberate and systematic 
adjustment of economic means to the attainment of the 
objective of pecuniary profit. The question is why this 
temper triiimphed^ver the conventional attitude which 
had regarded the appetitus divitiarum infijiitus — ^the 
unlimited lust for gain — as anti-social and immoral.^ 
His answer is that it was the result of movements 
which had their source in the religious revolution of 
the sixteenth century. 

Weber wrote as a scholar, not as a propagandist, 
and there is no trace in his work of the historical ani- 
mosities which still warp discussions of the effects of 
the Reformation J Professor Pirenne,^ in an illuminating ^ 
essay, has argued that social progress springs from 
below, and that each new phase of economic develop- 
ment is the creation, not of strata long in possession of 
wealth and power, but of classes which rise from 
humble origins to build a new structure on obscure 
foundations. The thesis of Weber is somewhat similar. 

' Weber, General Economic History, trans. Frank H. Knight, 
PP- 355-6. 

* Henri Pirenne, Les P^riodes de VHistoire Sociale du Capitalisme 
(Hayez, Brussels, 1914). 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

The pioneers of the modern economic order were, he 

,] argues, parvenus y who elbowed their way to success in 

the teeth of the established aristocracy of land and 

commerce. The tonic that braced them for the conflict 

was a new cop cf^pti^^" ^f rpliginn^ wKi^ih taught them 

to rpgrard the_purs,ijjt^ pf wealth as, not merely an 

.^acLvantage^ but a_ duty. This conception welded into 

a disciplined force the still feeble bourgeoisie ^ heightened 

its energies, and cast a halo of sanctification round its 

LjConvenient vices. What is significant, in short, is not 

T^ the strength of the motive of economic self-interest, 

^ which is the commonplace of all ages and demands no] 

1! explanation. It is the change of moral stan dards which 

converted a natural frailty into an ornament of the 

spirit, and canonized as the economic virtues habits 

which in earlier ages had been ^ 

1 The force which produced it was the creed associated 
V \s^ith the name of Calvin. Capitalism was the social 
{^ .counterpart of Calvinist theology. 

"X The central idea to which Weber appeals in con- 
firmation of his theory is expressed in the characteristic 
phrase **a calling." For Luther, as for most mediaeval 
theologians, it had normally meant the state of life in 
which the individual had been set bv Heaven, and 


against which it was impious to rebel. 'l"o the Calvinist, 
Weber argues, the calling is not a condition in which 
the individual is born, but a strenuous and exacting 
enterprise to be chosen bj^himself , a nd to be pursued 
with a sense of rehgimis responsihihty. Baptized in the 
bracing, if icy, waters of Calvinist theology, the life 
of business, once regarded as perilous to the soul — 
summe periculosa est emptionis et venditionis negotiatio — 


acquires a new sanctity. Labout-js_-QüL.03erely an 
econo mic means : it is a spiritua l end. Covetousness^ if '>^ 
2l danger to the^oul, is a less formidable menace than 
sloth. So far from poverty being melito^rious, it is a 
duty to choose the more pro fitable occupat ion. So far "/ 
Ifoift-there^beingan inevitableconflict between money- 
making_and43iety Tthey^are^ natural^ alJl^ for the virtues 
incumbent on the elect — diligence, thriit^ sobriety, 
prudenc e — are th e_jnos t reliable passporL to com- 
mercial_2ros2erity. Thus the pursuit of riches, which ^ 
once had been fe3red^;aSLllit:_iUieiy]f;;;5|HP&l4gion , was I 
now_3:dcmn£d.-_.as_Jts__ally--^The habits "and^insti- 
tutions in which that philosophy found expression 
survived long after the creed which was their parent 
had expired, or had withdrawn from Europe to more 
congenial c n^es .' If capitalism begins as the practical 
idealism of the aspiring bourgeoisie , it ends, Weber 
suggests in his concluding pages, as an orgy of 

Un England the great industry grew by gradual ^ 
increments over a period of centuries, and, since the 
English class system had long been based on differences 
of wealth, not of juristic status, there was no violent 
contrast between the legal foundations of the old order /) 
and the new. Hence in England the conception of ^, <^ 
capitalism as a distinct and peculiar phase of social *^%i, ' 
development has not readily been accepted. It is still ^^ -^ 
possible for writers, who in their youth have borne 
^ with equanimity instruction on the meaning of feudal- ^ - 
ism, to dismiss capitalism as an abstraction of theorists 
or a catchword of politicians. 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

The economic history of the Continent has moved 
by different stages from that of England, and the 
categories employed by Continental thinkers have 
accordingly been different. In France, where the 
•site on which the modern economic system was to 
be erected was levelled by a cataclysm, and in 
Germany, which passed in the fifty years between 
1850 and 1900 through a development that in England 
had occupied two hundred, there has been little 
temptation to question that capitalist civilization is a 
phenomenon differing, not merely in degree, but in 
kind, from the social order preceding it. It is not 
surprising, therefore, that its causes and characteristics 
should have been one of the central themes of historical 
study in both. The discussion began with the epoch- 
making work of Marx, who was greater as a sociologist 
than as an economic theorist, and continues unabated. 
Its most elaborate monument is Sombart's Der Modertie 

The first edition of Sombart's book appeared in 1902. 
Weber's articles, of which the first was published two 
years later, were a study of a single aspect of the same 
problem. A whole literature ^ has arisen on the subject 

* See, in particular, the following: E. Troeltsch, Die Sozialen Lehren 
der christlichen Kirchen und Gruppen (1912); F. Rachfahl, Kalvinismus 
und Kapitalismus {Internationale Wochenschrift, 1909, i. III); B. L. 
Brentano, Die Anfänge des Modernen Kapitalismus (1916) and Der 
Wirthschaftende Mensch in der Geschichte (191 1); W. Sombart, Die 
Juden und das Wirthschaftslehen (191 1 . Eng. trans. The Jews and Modern 
Capitalism, 1913), and Der Bourgeois (1913. Eng. trans. The Quint- 
essence of Modern Capitalism, 1915); G. v. Schulze-Gaevernitz, 
" Die Geistesgeschichtlichen Grundlagen der Anglo- Amerikanischen 
Weltsuprematie. III. Die Wirthschaftsethik des Kapitalismus" 
{Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, Bd. 61, Heft 2); 
H. S^e, *' Dans quelle mesure Puritains et Juifs ont-ils contribuö au 
Progres du Capitalisme Moderne?" {Revue Historique, t. CLV, 1927) 


I Foreword 

discussed in them. How does Weber's thesis stand 
to-day, after a quarter of a century of research and 
criticism ? 

The interpretation of rehgious beHefs and social 
institutions as different expressions of a common 
psychological attitude, which Weber elaborated in his 
Aufsätze zur Religionssociologie^ is no longer so novel 
as when he advanced it. Once stated, indeed, it has the 
air of a platitude. The capacity of human beings to 
departmentalize themselves is surprising, but it is not 
unlimited. It is obvious that, in so far as doctrines as 
to man's place in the universe are held with conviction, 
they will be reflected in the opinions formed of the 
nature of the social order most conducive to well-being, 
and that the habits moulded by the pressure of the 
economic environment' will in turn set their stamp on 
religion . Nor can Weber's contention be disputed that 
Calvinism, at least in certain phases of its history, was 
associated with an attitude to questions of social 
ethics which contemporaries regarded as peculiarly its 
own. Its critics attacked it as the sanctimonious ally of 
commercial sharp practice. Its admirers applauded it 

and Les Origines du Capitalisme Moderne (igzb) ; M. Halbwachs, " Les 
Origines Puritaines du Capitalisme Moderne " (Revue d'histoire et 
Philosophie religieuses, March-April 1925) and "ficonomistes et His- 
toriens : Max Weber, une vie, un ceuvre " (Annales d'Histoire Eco- 
nomique et Sociale, No. i, 1929); H, Häuser, Les Debuts du Capitalisme 
Moderne (igzj); H. G. Wood, "The Influence of the Reformation 
on ideas concerning Wealth and Property," in Property, its Rights 
and Duties (1913); Talcott Parsons, " Capitalism in Recent German 
Literature" (Journal of Political Economy, December 1928 and 
February 1929); Frank H. Knight, "Historical and Theoretical 
Issues in the Problem of Modern Capitalism" (Journal of Economic 
and Business History, November 1928); Kemper Fulberton, "Cal- 
vinism and Capitalism" (Harvard Theological Reviezv, July, 1928). 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

as the school of the economic virtues. By the middle of 
the seventeenth century the contrast between the social 
conservatism of Catholic Europe and the strenuous 
enterprise of Calvinist communities had become a 
commonplace. "There is a kind of natural inaptness," 
wrote a pamphleteer in 1671, "in the Popish religion 
to business, whereas, on the contrary, among the 
Reformed, the greater their zeal, the greater their 
inclination to trade and industry, as holding idleness 
unlawful." The influence of Calvinism was frequently 
adduced as one explanation of the economic prosperity 
of Holland. The fact that in England the stronghold 
of Nonconformity was the commercial classes was an 
argument repeatedly advanced for tolerating Non- 
conformists. . 

/ In cmpha sTzingrtherefore, the connection betwee^ 

religious radicalism and economic progress, Webei 
called attention to an interesting phenomenon, atP 
which previous writers had hinted, but which none, 
had yet examined with the same wealth of learning and|- 
phil osophical ins ight. (The significance"to~be'äscnbedto 
it, and, in particulaf;ihe relation of Calvinist influences 
to the other forces making for economic innovation, 
is a different and more difficult question. His essay 
was confined to the part played by religious movements 
in creating conditions favourable to the growth of a 
new type of economic civilization, and he is careful to 
guard himself against the criticism that* he under- 
estimates the importance of the parallel developments 
in the world of commerce, finance, and industry. 
It is obvious, however, that, until the latter have been 
examined, it is not possible to determine the weight to 



be assigned to the former. It is arguable, at least, that, 
instead of Calvinism producing the spirit of Capitalism, ,/ 
both would with equal plausibility be regarded as 
different effects of changes in economic organisation 
and social structure. 

It is the temptation of one who expounds a new and 
fruitful idea to use it as a key to unlock all doors, 
and to explain by reference to a single principle 
phenomena which are, in reality, the result of several 
converging causes ."^~Weber's essay is not altogether 
free, perhaps, from the defects of its qualities. It 
appears occasionally to be somewhat over-subtle in' 
ascribing to intellectual and moral influences develop- 
ments which were the result of more prosaic and 
mundane forces, and which appeared, irrespective of 
the character of religious creeds, wherever external 
conditions offered them a congenial environment. / 
"Capitalism" itself is an ambiguous, if indispensable, 
word, and Weber's interpretation of it seems sometimes 
to be open to the criticism of Professor See,^ that he 
simplifies and limits its meaning to suit the exigencies 
of his argument. There was no lack of the "capitalist 
spirit" in the Venice and Florence of the fourteenth 
century, or in the Antwerp of the fifteenth. Its develop- 
ment in Holland and England, it might not unreason- 
ably be argued, had less to do with the fact that they, 
or certain social strata in them, accepted the Calvinist 
version of the Reformation, than with large economic 
movements and the social changes produced by them. 

t ' H. S^e, " Dans quelle mesure Puritains et Juifs ont-ils contribu^ 
|au Progrfes Capitalisme Moderne?" {Revue Historique, t. CLV, 

' 7 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

**Ce que MM. Weber et Troeltsch," writes Professor 
Pirenne,» "prennent pour I'esprit Calviniste, c'est 
precisement I'esprit des hommes nouveaux que la 
revolution economique du temps introduit dans la 
vie des affaires, et qui s'y opposent aux traditionalistes 
auxquels ils se substituent." Why insist that causation 
can work in only one direction ? Is it not a little artificial 
to suggest that capitalist enterprise had to wait, as 
Weber appears to imply, till religious changes had 
produced a capitalist spirit? Would it not be equally 
plausible, and equally one-sided, to argue that the 
religious changes were themselves merely the result of 
economic movements ? 

If Weber, as was natural in view of his approach to 
the problem, seems to lay in the present essay some- 
what too exclusive an emphasis upon intellectual and 
ethical forces, his analysis of those forces themselves 
requires, perhaps, to be supplemented. Brentano 's 
criticism, that the political thought of the Renaissance 
was as powerful a solvent of conventional restraints as 
the teaching of Calvin, is not without weight. In 
England, at any rate, the speculations of business men 
and economists as to money, prices, and the foreign 
exchanges, which were occasioned by the recurrent 
financial crises of the sixteenth century and by the 
change in the price level, were equally effective in 
undermining the attitude which Weber called tradi- 
tionalism. Recent studies of the development of 
economic thought suggest that the change of opinion 
on economic ethics ascribed to Calvinism was by no 

' H. Pirenne, Les Periodes de VHistoire Sociale du Capitalisme 
(1914). 2 



means confined to it, but was part of a general intel- 
lectual movement, which was reflected in the outlook 
of Catholic, as well as of Protestant, writers. Nor was 
the influence of Calvinist teaching itself so uniform in 
character, or so undeviating in tendency, as might be 
inferred by the reader of Weber's essay. On the 
contrary, it varied widely from period to period and 
coimtry to country, with differences of economic 
conditions, social tradition, and political environment. 
It looked to the past as well as to the future. If in 
some of its phases it was on the side of change, in 
others it was conservative. 

Most of Weber's illustrations of his thesis are drawn 
from the writings of English Puritans of the latter 
part of the seventeenth century. It is their teaching 
which supplies him with the materials for his picture of 
the pious bourgeois conducting his business as a calling 
to which Providence has summoned the elect. Whether 
the idea conveyed by the word "calling" is so peculiar 
to Calvinism as Weber implies is a question for 
theologians; but the problem, it may be suggested, 
is considerably more complex than his treatment of it 
suggests. For three generations of economic develop- 
ment and political agitation lay between these writers 
and the author of the Institutes. The Calvinism which 
fought the English Civil War, still more the Calvinism 
which won an uneasy toleration at the Revolution, was 
not that of its founder. 

Calvin's own ideal of social organization Is revealed 
by the system which he erected at Geneva. It had been 

/heocracy administered by a dictatorship of ministers. 

I "the most perfect school of Christ ever seen on 

c 9 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

earth since the day of the Apostles", the rule of life 
had been an iron collectivism. A godly discipline had 
been the aim of Knox, of the Reformed Churches in 
France, and of the fathers of the English Presbyterian 
Movement; while a strict control of economic enter- 
prise had been the policy first pursued by the saints 
in New England. The Calvinism, both of England 
and Holland, in the seventeenth century, had found its 
way to a different position. It had discovered a com- 
promise in which a juster balance was struck between 
prosperity and salvation, and, while retaining the 
theology of the master, it repudiated his scheme of 
social ethics. Persuaded that "godliness hath the 
promise of this life, as well as of the life to come," it 
resisted, with sober intransigeance, the interference in 
matters of business both of the state and of divines. 
It is this second, individualistic phase of Calvinism, 
rather than the remorseless rigours of Calvin himself, 
which may plausibly be held to have affinities with the 
temper called by Weber "the spirit of Capitalism." 
The question which needs investigation is that of the 
causes which produced a change of attitude so con- 
venient to its votaries and so embarrassing to their 

It is a question which raises issues that are not 
discussed at length in Weber's essay, though, doubtless, 
he was aware of them. Taking as his theme, not the 
conduct of Puritan capitalists, but the doctrines of 
Puritan divines, he pursues a single line of inquiry 
with masterly ingenuity. His conclusions are illuminat- 
ing; but they are susceptible, it may perhaps be heid, 
of more than one interpretation. There was action j^nd 




reaction, and, while Puritanism helped to mould the 
social order, it was, in its turn» jno ulded_by it. It is 
instructive to "'fFaCeT'with Weber, the influence of 
religious ideas on economic development. It is not less 
important to grasp the effect of the economic arrange- 
ments accepted by an age on the opinion which it holds 
of the province of religion. 







A PRODUCT of modern European civilization, studying 
any problem of universal history, is bound to ask him- 
self to ^hat ^co mbination of circumstances the fact 
shou ld be attributed that in Western civili zation, and in 
W estern civilizat ion only, cultural phenomena have 
app eared which(äs we like to think) lie in a line~o f 
develo pment having^ universal signif icance and value. 

Only in the West does science exist at a stage of 
development which we recognize to-day as valid. 
Knr piriral knowledg e, re flection on problems of the 
cosmos and of life, philosophical and theological 
wisdom of the most prof ound sort, are not confined to 
it. thougiTm the c ase of Ihe last the full development of 
a_§y stematic theology must be credited to Christianity 
under the influence of Hellenism, since there were 
only fragments m Islam and in a few Indian sects. In 
short, knowledge and observation of great refinement 
have existed elsewhere, above all in India, China, 
Babylonia, Egypt. But in Babylonia and elsewhere 
astronomy lacked — ^which makes its development all 
the more astounding — ^the mathematical foundation 
which it first received from the Greeks. The Indian 
geometry had no rational proof; that was another 
product of the Greek intellect, also the creator of 
mechanics and physics. The Indian natural sciences, 
though well developed in observation, lacked the 
method of experiment, which was, apart from begin- 
nings in antiquity, essentially a product of the 
Renaissance, as was the modern laboratory. Hence 
medicine, especially in India, though highly developed 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

in empirical technique, lacked a biological and par- 
ticularly a biochemical foundation. A rational chemistry 
has been absent from all areas of culture except the 

The highly developed historical scholarship of China 
did not have the method of Thucydides. Machiavelli, 
it is true, had predecessors in India; but all Indian 
political thought was lacking in a systematic method 
comparable to that of Aristotle, and, indeed, in the 
possession of rational concepts. Not all the anticipa- 
tions in India (School of Mimamsa), nor the extensive 
codification especially in the Near East, nor all the 
Indian and other books of law, had the strictly syste- 
matic forms of thought, so essential to a rational juris- 
prudence, of the Roman law and of the Western law 
under its influence. A structure like the canon law is 
known only to the West. 

A similar statement is true of art. The musical ear 
of other peoples has probably been even more sensi- 
tively developed than our own, certainly not less so. 
Polyphonic music of various kinds has been widely 
distributed over the earth. The co-operation of a 
number of instruments and also the singing of parts 
have existed elsewhere. All our rational tone intervals 
have been known and calculated. But rational har- 
monious music, both counterpoint and harmony, 
formation of the tone material on the basis of three 
triads with the harmonic third; our chromatics and 
enharmonics, not interpreted in terms of space, but, 
since the Renaissance, of harmony; our orchestra, with 
its string quartet as a nucleus, and the organization of 
ensembles of wind instruments; our bass accompani- 


Author's Introduction 

ment; our system of notation, which has made possible 
the composition and production of modem musical 
works, and thus their very survival; our sonatas, 
symphonies, operas; and finally, as means to all these, 
our fundamental instruments, the organ, piano, violin, 
etc.; all these things are known only in the Occident, 
although programme music, tone poetry, alteration of 
tones and chromatics, have existed in various musical 
traditions as means of expression. 

In architecture, pointed arches have been used else- 
where as a means of decoration, in antiquity and in 
Asia ; presumably the combination of pointed arch and 
cross-arched vault was not unknown in the Orient. 
But the rational use of the Gothic vault as a means of 
distributing pressure and of roofing spaces of all 
forms, and above all as the constructive principle of 
great monumental buildings and the foundation of a 
style extending to sculpture and painting, such as that 
created by our Middle Ages, does not occur elsewhere. 
The technical basis of our architecture came from the 
Orient. But the Orient lacked that solution of the 
problem of the dome and that type of classic rational- 
ization of all art — in painting by the rational utilization 
of lines and spatial perspective — which the Renaissance 
created for us. There was printing in China. But a 
printed literature, designed only for print and only 
possible through it, and, above all, the Press and 
periodicals, have appeared only in the Occident. 
Institutions of higher education of all possible types,, 
even some superficially similar to our universities, or 
at least academies, have existed (China, Islam). But a 
rational, systematic, and specialized pursuit of science, 

^ IS 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

with trained and specialized personnel, has^ only 
existed in the West in a sense at all approaching its 
present dominant place in our culture. Above all is 
this true of the trained official, the pillar of both the 
modern State and of the economic life- of the West. 
He forms a type of which there have heretofore only 
been suggestions, which have never remotely ap- 
proached its present importance for the social order. 
Of course the official, even the specialized official, is a 
very old constituent of the most various societies. But 
no country and no age has ever experienced, in the 
same sense as the modern Occident, the absolute and 
complete dependence of its whole existence, of the 
political, technical, and economic conditions of its life, 
on a specially trained organization of officials. The 
most important functions of the everyday life of 
society have come to be in the hands of technically, 
commercially, and above all legally trained govern- 
ment officials. 

Organization of political and social groups in feudal 
classes has been common. But even the feudal^ state 
of rex et regnum in the Western sense has only been 
known to our culture. Even more are parliaments of 
periodically elected representatives, with government 
by demagogues and party leaders as ministers respon- 
sible to the parliaments, peculiar to us, although there 
have, of course, been parties, in the sense of organiza- 
tions for exerting influence and gaining control of 
political power, all over the world. In fact, the State 
itself, in the sense of a political association with a 
ra tional, written constitution, rationally ordained law, 
anvd an administration bound to rational rules or laws, 


administered by trained officials, is known, in this 
combination of characteristics, only in the Occident, 
despite all other approaches to it. 

^And the same is true of the most fateful force in our 
nioaern life, capitalism. The im pulse to arqnisitinn , , 
pursuit_ of gain, of money, of the, grpatpst pngsjhlp 
amou nt "f mone y^ has in itself nothing to do with 
capitalism j^his impulse exists and has existed among 
waiters, physicians, coachmen, artists, prostitutes, dis- 
honest officials, soldiers, nobles, crusaders, gamblers, ^ 
and beggars. One may say that it has been common to ■^' 
all sorts and conditions o f men at all times f^pH \n nÜ '^^ 
cniintries nf the f^arth, whprf^vpr thf^ nKj^Ptlye possi- 
bility ^f it jp or has b^^n giv f n It^ should be taught in 
the kindergarten of cultural history that th is naive id^a 
o Tcäpitalism must be given up once and for all. Un- 
l imited jgreed for gain is not in the least identical with 
c apitalism j ?inH i« still less i ts spirit- Papit p lism mny 
even be id entical with thp r^Qt-ramtj nr at |pQgt ^ rM\^^?\ 

t empering^ of this irrational impulse . \ But capitalism i^ /^ 
i dentical with the pursuit of profit, and forever renewe d\ 
p rofit, by means of continuous, rational, capitalisti c 
eaterprisei-For it must be so: in a wholly capitalistic 
order of society, an individual capitalistic enterprise 
which did not take advantage of its opportunities for 
profit-making would be doomed to extinction. 
( Le t us now define our te rms sornewhat_more care.- 
fully than is generally done. We will define a capitalistic 
economic flrtinn~äR~nnp"whirh rests on the expectation 
of profit by the utilization of opportunities for exchange, 
that is on (formally) peaceful chances of profit. Acqui- 
sition by force (formally and actually) follows its own 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

particular laws, and it is not expedient, however little 
one can forbid this, to place it in the same category 
with action which is, in the last analysis, oriented to 
profits from exchange. ^ Where capitalistic acquisition 
is rationally pursued, the corresponding action is 
adjusted to calculations in terms of capital. This means 
that the action is adapted to a systematic utilization of 
goods or personal services as means of acquisition in 
such a way that, at the close of a business period, the 
balance of the enterprise in money assets (or, in 
the case of a continuous enterprise, the periodically 
estimated money value of assets) exceeds the capital, 
i.e. the estimated value of the material "^eans 
of production used for acquisition in exchange. It 
makes no difference whether it involves a quantity 
of goods entrusted in natura to a travelling merchant, 
the proceeds of which may consist in other goods in 
natura acquired by trade, or whether it involves a 
manufacturing enterprise, the assets of which consist 
of buildings, machinery, cash, raw materials, partly 
and wholly manufactured goods, which are balanced 
against liabilities. The important fact is always that a 
calculation of capital in terms of money is made, 
whether by modern book-keeping methods or in any 
other way, however primitive and crude. Everything 
is done in terms of balances : at the beginning of the 
enterprise an initial balance, before every individual 
decision a calculation to ascertain its probable profit- 
ableness, and at the end a final balance to ascertain 
how much profit has been made. For instance, the 
initial balances of a commenda ^ transaction would 
determine an agreed money value of the assets put into 


it (so far as they were not in money form already), and 
a final balance would form the estimate on which 
to base the distribution of profit and loss at the end. 
So far as the transactions are rational, cal culation under- 
li es every sm gle action oi the part ners. 1 hat a really 
accurate calculation or estimate may not exist, that the 
procedure is pure guess-work, or simply traditional and 
conventional, happens even to-day in every form of 
capitalistic enterprise where the circumstances do 
not demand strict accuracy. But these are points 
affecting only the degree of rationality of capitalistic 

For the purpose of this conception all that matters is 
that an actual adaptation of economic action to a com- 
parison of money income with money expenses takes 
place, no matter how primitive the form. Now in this 
sense capitalism^ and capitalistic enterprises, even 
with a considerable rationalization of capitalistic calcu- 
lation, have existed in all civilized countries of the 
earth, so far as economic documents permit us to 
judge. In China, India, Babylon, Egypt, Mediterranean 
antiquity, and the Middle Ages, as well as in modem 
times. These were not merely isolated ventures, but 
economic enterprises which were entirely dependent 
on the continual renewal of capitalistic undertakings, 
and even continuous operations. However, trade espe- 
cially was for a long time not continuous like our 
own, but consisted essentially in a series of individual 
undertakings. Only gradually did the activities of even 
the large merchants acquire an inner cohesion (with 
branch organizations, etc.). In any case, the capitalistic 
enterprise and the capitalistic entrepreneur, not only 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

as occasional but as regular entrepreneurs, are very old 
and were very widespread. 

Now, however, the Occident has developed capital- 
ism both to a quantitative extent, and (carrying this 
quantitative development) in types, forms, and direc- 
tions which have never existed elsewhere. All over the 
world there have been merchants, wholesale and retail, 
local and engaged in foreign trade. Loans of all kinds 
have been made, and there have been banks with the 
most various functions, at least comparable to ours of, 
say, the sixteenth century. Sea loans,* commenda^ and 
transactions and associations similar to the Kom- 
manditgesellschaft y^ have all been widespread, even as 
continuous businesses. Whenever money finances of 
public bodies have existed, money- lenders have ap- 
peared, as in Babylon, Hellas, India, China, Rome. 
They have financed wars and piracy, contracts and 
building operations of all sorts. In overseas policy they 
have functioned as colonial entrepreneurs, as planters 
with slaves, or directly or indirectly forced labour, and 
have farmed domains, offices, and, above all, taxes. 
They have financed party leaders in elections and 
condottieri in civil wars. And, finally, they have been 
speculators in chances for pecuniary gain of all kinds. 
This kind of entrepreneur, the capitalistic adventurer, 
has existed everywhere. Withjthejexception of trade 
and credit and banking transactions, their activities' 
were predominantly of an irrational and speculative 
character, or directed to acquisition by force, above all 
the acquisition of booty, whether directly in war or in 
the form of continuous fiscal booty by exploitation of 



The capitalism of promoters, large-scale speculators, 
concession hunters, and much modern financial capital- 
ism even in peace time, but, above all, the capitalism 
especially concerned with exploiting wars, bears this 
stamp even in modern Western countries, and some, / 
but only some, parts of large-scale international trade ^ ^ 
are closely related to it, to-day as alwa^» '■c^/ö/w j^ 

But in modem times the Occident^nas developed, in U> 
addition to this, a very different form of capitalism /-/e^'^ 
which has appeared nowhere else : the rational capital- 
istic organization of (formally) free labour. Only 
suggestions of it are found elsewhere. Even the organ- 
ization of unfree labour reached a considerable degree 
of rationality only on plantations and to a very limited 
extent in the Ergasteria of antiquity. In the manors, 
manorial workshops, and domestic industries on estates 
with serf labour it was probably somewhat less devel- 
oped. Even real domestic industries with free labour 
have definitely been proved to have existed in only a 
few isolated cases outside the Occident. The frequent 
use of day labourers led in a very few cases — especially 
State monopolies, which are, however, very different from 
modern industrial organization — to manufacturing organ- 
izations, but never to a rational organization of apprentice- 
ship in the handicrafts like that of our Middle Ages. 

^Rational industrial organization, attuned to a regular 
market7^nd neither to political nor irrationally specu- 
lative opportunities for profit, is not, however, the only 
peculiarity of Western capitalism. The modern rational 
organization of the capitalistic enterprise would not 
have been possible without two other important factors 
in its development: tJie separation of business from ^'^ 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

the household, which completely dominates modem 
economic life, and closely connected with it, rational 
book-keeping. A spatial separation of places of work 
from those of residence exists elsewhere, as in the 
Oriental bazaar and in the ergasteria of other cultures. 
The development of capitalistic associations with their 
own accounts is also found in the Far East, the Near 
East, and in antiquity. But compared to the modern 
independence of business enterprises, those are only 
small beginnings. The reason for this was particularly 
that the indispensable requisites for this independence, 
our rational business book-keeping and our legal 
separation of corporate from personal property, were 
entirely lacking, or had only begun to develop.^ The 
tendency everywhere else was for acquisitive enterprises 
to arise as parts of a royal or manorial household (of 
the oikos), which is, as Rodbertus has perceived, with 
all its superficial similarity, a fundamentally different, 
even opposite, development. 

However, all these peculiarities of Western capitalism 
have derived their significance in the last analysis only 
from their association with the capitalistic organization 
of labour. Even what is generally called commercializa- 
tion, the development of negotiable securities and the 
rationalization of speculation, the exchanges, etc., is 
connected with it. For without the rational capitalistic 
organization of labour,, all this, so far as it was possible 
at all, would have nothing like the same significance, 
above all for the social structure and all the specific 
problems of the modem Occident connected with it. 
Exact calculation — the basis of everything else — is only 
possible on a basis of free labour.' 



And just as, or rather because, the world has known 
no rational organization of labour outside the modern 
Occident, it has known no rational socialism. Of course, 
there has been civic economy, a civic food-supply 
policy, mercantilism and welfare policies of princes, 
rationing, regulation of economic life, protectionism, 
and laissez-faire theories (as in China). The world has 
also known socialistic and communistic experiments of 
various sorts : family, religious, or military communism, 
State socialism (in Egypt), monopolistic cartels, and 
consumers' organizations. But although there have 
everywhere been civic market privileges, companies, 
guilds, and all sorts of legal differences between town 
and country, the concept of the citizen has not existed 
outside the Occident, and that of the bourgeoisie 
outside the modern Occident. Similarly, the proletariat 
as a class could not exist, because there was no rational 
organization of free labour under regular discipline. 
Qlass_struggles between creditor and debtor classes; 
landowners and the landless, serfs, or tenants; trading 
interests and consumers or landlords, have existed 
everywhere in various combinations. But even the 
Western mediaeval struggles between putters-out and 
their workers exist elsewhere only in beginnings. The 
modern conflict of the large-scale industrial entre- 
preneur and free-wage labourers was entirely lacking. 
And thus there could be no such problems as those 
of socialism. 

Hence in a universal history of culture the central 
problem for us is not, i n the las t analysis, even from a 
purely economic view-point, the development of capital- 
istic activity as such, differing in different cultures only 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

in form: the adventurer type, or capitalism in trade, 
war, politics, or administration as sources of gain. It is 

(rather the origin of this sober bourgeois capitalism with 
its rational organization of free labour. Or in terms of 
/cultural history, the problem is that of the origin of 

/ the Western bourgeois class and of its peculiarities, a 

\ problem which is certainly closely connected with that 
of the origin of the capitalistic organization of labour, 
but is not quite the same thing. For the bourgeois as a 
class existed prior to the development of the peculiar 
modern form of capitalism, though, it is true, only in 
the Western hemisphere. 

Now the peculiar modern Western form of capitalism 
has been, at first sight, strongly influenced by the 
development of technical possibilities. Its rationality is 
to-day essentially dependent on the calculability of the 
most important technical factors. But this means 
fundamentally that it is dependent on the peculiarities 
of modern science, especially the natural sciences based 
on mathematics and exact and rational experiment. On 
the other hand, the development of these sciences and 
of the technique resting upon them now receives 
important stimulation from these capitalistic interests 
in its practical economic application. It is true that the 
origin of Western science cannot be attributed to such 
interests. Calculation, even with decimals, and algebra 
have been carried on in India, where the decimal 

/ system was invented. But it was only made use of by 
developing capitalism in the West, while in India it 

, led to no modern arithmetic or book-keeping. Neither 
was the origin of mathematics and mechanics deter- 
mined by capitalistic interests. But the technical utilizsL' )f 
24 — 


tion of scientific knowledge, so important for the living 
conditions of the mass of people, was certainly encour- I 
aged by economic considerations, which were extremely ' 
favourable to it in the Occident. Bui this encourage- 
ment was derived from the peculiarities of the social 
structure of the Occident. We must hence ask, from 
what parts of that structure was it derived, since not 
all of them have been of equal importance ? 

Among those of undoubted importance are the 
rational structures of law and of administration. Fori- 
modern rational capitalism has need, not only of the 
technical means of production, but of a calculable legal 
system and of administration in terms of formal rules. 
Without it adventurous and speculative trading capital- 
ism and all sorts of politically determined capitalisms 
are possible, but no rational enterprise under individual 
initiative, with fixed capital and certainty of calculations. 
Such a legal system and such administration have been 
available for economic activity in a comparative state of 
legal and formalistic perfection only in the Occident. 
We must hence inquire where that law came from. 
Among other circumstances, capitalistic interests häve| 
in turn undoubtedly also helped, but by no means alone | 
nor even principally, to prepare the way for the pre- 
dominance in law and administration of a class of jurists 
specially trained in rational law. But these interests 
did not themselves create that law. Quite different forces 
were at work in this development. And why did not the 
capitalistic interests do the same in China or India? 
Why- did not the scientific, the artistic, the political, or 
the economic development there enter upon that path , 
of rationalization which is peculiar to the Occident? y 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

For in all the above cases it is a question of the 
specific and peculiar rationalism of Western culture. 
Now by this term very different things may be under- 
stood, as the following discussion will repeatedly show. 
There is, for example, rationalization' of mystical 
contemplation, that is of an attitude which, viewed 
from other departments of life, is specifically irrational, 
just as much as there are rationalizations of economic 
life, of technique, of scientific research, of military 
training, of law and administration. Furthermore, each 
one of these fields may be rationalized in terms of very 
different ultimate values and ends, and what is rational 
from one point of view may well be irrational from 
another. Hence rationalizations of the most varied 
character have existed in various departments of life 
and in all areas of culture. To characterize their 
differences from the view-point of cultural history it is 
necessary to know what departments are rationalized, 
and in what direction. It is hence our first concern 
to work out and to explain genetically the special 
peculiarity of Occidental rationalism, and within this 
field that of the modern Occidental form. Every such 
attempt at explanation must, recognizing the funda- 
mental importance of the economic factor, above all 
take account of the economic conditions. But at the 
same time the opposite correlation must not be left 
out of consideration. For though the development of 
economic rationalism is partly dependent on rational 
technique and law, it is at the same time determined 
by the ability and disposition of men to adopt certain 
types of practical rational condudt. When these types 
have been obstructed by spiritual obstacles, the 


development of rational economic conduct has also 
met serious inner resistance. The magical and religious 
forces, and the ethical ideas of duty based upon them, 
have in the past always been among the most important 
formative influences on conduct. In the studies collected 
here we shall be concerned with these forces.^ 

Two older essays have been placed at the beginning 
whicE attempt, at one important point, to approach the 
side of the problem which is generally most difficult to 
grasp: the influence of certain religious ideas on the 
development of aneconomic spirit ,_or the eitte of an 
economic_system. In this case we are dealing with the 
connection of the spirit of modern economic life with 
the rational ethics of ascetic Protestantism. Thus we 
treat here only one side of the causal chain. The later 
studies on the Economic Ethics of the World Religions 
attempt, in the form of a survey of the relations of the 
most important religions to economic life and to the 
social stratification of their environment, to follow out 
both causal relationships, so far as it is necessary in 
order to find points of comparison with the Occidental 
development. For only in this way is it possible to 
attempt a causal evaluation of those elements of the 
economic ethics of the Western religions which differ- 
entiate them from others, with a hope of attaining 
even a tolerable degree of approximation. Hence these 
' studies do not claim to be complete analyses of cultures, 
however brief. On the contrary, in every culture they 
quite deliberately emphasize the elements in which it 
differs from Western civilization. They are, hence, 
definitely oriented to the problems which seem im- 
portant for the understanding of Western culture from 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

this view-point. With our object in view, any other 
procedure did not seem possible. But to avoid mis- 
understanding we must here lay special emphasis on 
the limitation of our purpose. 

In another respect the uninitiated at least must be 
warned against exaggerating the importance of these 
investigations. The Sinologist, the Indologist, the 
Semitist, or the Egyptologist, will of course find no. 
facts unknown to him. We only hope that he will find 
nothing definitely wrong in points that are essential. 
How far it has been possible to come as near this ideal 
as a non-specialist is able to do, the author cannot know. 
It is quite evident that anyone who is forced to rely on 
translations, and furthermore on the use and evaluation 
of monumental, documentary, or literary sources, has 
to rely himself on a specialist literature which is often 
highly controversial, and the merits of which he is 
unable to judge accurately. Such a writer must make 
modest claims for the value of his work. All the more 
so since the number of available translations of relal 
sources (that is, inscriptions and documents) is, 
especially for China, still very small in comparison 
with what exists and is important. From all this follows 
the definitely provisional character of these studies, 
and especially of the parts dealing with Asia.^ Only the 
specialist is entitled to a final judgment. And, naturally, 
it is only because expert studies with this special 
purpose and from this particular view-point have not 
hitherto been made, that the present ones have been 
written at all. They are destined to be superseded in a 
much more important sense than this can be said, as 
it can be, of all scientific work. But however objection- 


able it may be, such trespassing on other special fields 
cannot be avoided in comparative work. But one must 
take the consequences by resigning oneself to con- 
siderable doubts regarding the degree of one's success. 

Fashion and the zeal of the literati would have 
us think that the specialist can to-day be spared, or 
degraded to a position subordinate to that of the seer. 
Almost all sciences owe something to dilettantes, often 
very valuable view-points. But dilettantism as a leading 
principle would be the end of science. He who yearns 
for seeing should go to the cinema, though it will be 
offered to him copiously to-day in literary form in the 
present field of investigation also.^® Nothing is farther 
from the intent of these thoroughly serious studies than 
such an attitude. And, I might add, whoever wants a 
sermon should go to a conventicle. The question of th e ,^ 
elative value of the cultures which are compared herg / 

not receive a single word . It is true that the path 
of human destiny cannot but appall him who surveys a 
section of it. But he will do well to keep his small 
personal commentaries to himself, as one does at the 
sight of the sea or of majestic mountains, unless he 
knows himself to be called and gifted to give them 
expression in artistic or prophetic form. In most other 
cases the voluminous talk about intuition does nothing 
but conceal a lack of perspective toward the ob'ect, 
which merits the same judgment as a similar lack of 
perspective toward men. 

Some justification is needed for the fact that ethno- 
graphical material has not been utilized to anything 
like the extent which the value of its contributions 
naturally demands in any really thorough investigation, 



The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

especially of Asiatic religions. This limitation has not 
only been imposed because human powers of work are 
restricted. This omission has also seemed to be per- 
missible because we are here necessarily dealing with 
the religious ethics of the classes which were the culture- 
bearers of their respective countries. We are concerned 
with the influence which their conduct has had. Now it 
is quite true that this can only be completely known in 
all its details when the facts from ethnography and 
folk-lore have been compared with it. Hence we must 
expressly admit and emphasize that this is a gap to 
which the ethnographer will legitimately object. I 
hope to contribute something to the closing of this 
gap in a systematic study of the Sociology of Religion .^^ 
But such an undertaking would have transcended the 
limits of this investigation with its closely circumscribed 
purpose. It has been necessary to be content with 
bringing out the points of comparison with our Occi- 
dental religions as well as possible. 

Finally, we may make a reference to the anthropo- 
logical side of the problem. When we find again and 
again that, even in departments of life apparently 
mutually independent, certain types of rationalization 
have developed in the Occident, and only there, it 
would be natural to suspect that the most important 
reason lay in differences of heredity. The author admits 
that he is inclined to think the importance of biological 
heredity very great. But in spite of the notable achieve- 
ments of anthropological research, I see up to the 
present no way of exactly or even approximately 
measuring either the extent or, above all, the form 
of its influence on the development investigated here. 


It must be one of the tasks of sociological and historical 
investigation first to analyse all the influences and 
causal relationships which can satisfactorily be ex- 
plained in terms of reactions to environmental condi- 
tions. Only then, and when comparative racial 
neurology and psychology shall have progressed beyond 
their present and in many ways very promising 
beginnings, can we hope for even the probability of a 
satisfactory answer to that problem .^^ In the mean- 
time that condition seems to me not to exist, and an 
appeal to heredity would therefore involve a premature 
renunciation of the possibility of knowledge attainable 
now, and would shift the problem to factors (at present) 
still unknown. 





A GLANCE at the occupational statistics of any country 
bf mixed religious composition brings to light with 
remarkable frequency^ a situation which has several 
times provoked discussion in the Catholic press and 
literature,^ and in Catholic congresses in Germany, 
namely, the fact that business leade rs and owners of 
capital, as well as the higher grades of skilled labour, 
and even more the higher technically and commercially 
trained personnel of modem enterprises, are over- 
whelmingly Protestant."* This is true not only in cases 
where the difference in religion coincides with one of 
nationality, and thus of cultural development, as in 
Eastern Germany between Germans and Poles. The 
same thing is shown in the figures of religious affiliation 
almost wherever capitalism, at the time of its great 
expansion, has had a free hand to alter the social 
distribution of the population in accordance with its 
needs, and to determine its occupational structure. 
The more freedom it has had, the more clearly is the 
effect shown. It is true that the greater relative par- 
ticipation of Protestants in the ownership of capital,^ 
in management, and the upper ranks of labour in great 
modem industrial and commercial enterprises,® may in 
part he explained in terms of historical circumstances' 
which extend far back into the past, and in which 
r eligio us affiliation is not a cause of the economicV 
conditions, but to a certain extent appears to be a result/ 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capita^ m 

^ of them. Participation in the above economic funr in 
^\ usually involves some previous ownership of c.'- m 
and generally an expensive education ; often both. T. nesv. 
are to-day largely dependent on the possession of in- 
herited wealth, or at least on a certain degree of material 
well-being. A number of those sections of the old 
Empire which were most highly developed economic- 
ally and most favoured by natural resources and 
situation, in particular a majority of the wealthy towns, 
went over to Protestantism in the sixteenth century. 
The results of that circumstance favour the Protestants 
even to-day in their struggle for economic existence. 
Ther e arises thus the historical question : why were th e 
di stricts of highest economic development at the same 
t npe particul prly favniirablp tn a rpvf>]i^finn in the 

Church ? The answer is by no means so simple as one 
might think. 

The e mancipation from economic traditionalism 

appears, no doubt, to be a factor which w ould greatly 

gfrfpg^^^" ^ hp tpnHpncy to doubt the sanctity of the 

religious traditinn , as of all traditional authoritiesQBut 

it is necessary to note, what has often been forgotten, 

Ahat the Reformation meant not the elimination of 

j the Churches control over everyday life, but rathert he 

-J substitution of a new form of control for the previo us 

' one. It meant the repudiation of a control which was 

Wery lax, at that time scarcely perceptible in practice, 

/ and hardly more than formal, in favour of a regulation 

^\ of the whole of conduct which, penetrating to all 

>^ departments of private and public life, was infinitely 

y/\ burdensome and earnestly enforced]) The rule of the 

I Catholic Church, "punishing the heretic, but indulgent 


Religious Affiliation and Social Stratification 

^ the sinner", as it was in the past even more than 
0-day, is now tolerated by peoples of thoroughly modem 
economic character, and was borne by the richest and 
economically most advanced peoples on earth at about 
the turn of the fifteenth century., The^rule of Calvinism, 
on the other hand, as it was enforced in the sixteenth 
century in Geneva and in Scotland, at the turn of the 
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in large parts of 
the Netherlands, in the seventeenth in New England, 
and for a time in England itself , wouldbe^or u& _the 
most absolutely unbearable form of eccfcsiastical con- 
trol of the individual which could possibly exist. That 
was^xactly what largeliumberi~oF the old commercial 
aristocracy of those times, in Geneva as well as in 
Holland and England, felt about it. And what the 
reformers complained of in those areas of high eco- 
nomic development was not too much supervision of 
life on the part of the Church, but too little fNow how 
does it happen that at that time those countries which 
were most advanced economically, and within them 
the rising bourgeois middle classes, not only failed to 
resist this imexampled tyranny of Puritanism, but even 
developed a heroism in its defence.'' For bourgeois 
classes as such have seldom before and never since 
displayed heroism. It was "the last of our heroisms", as 
Carlyle, not without reason, has said. 

But further, and especially important: it may be, as 
has been claimed, that t he greater partiripatinn _q£ 
Protestants in jhe^pos itions of ownership andLmanag&r 
m ent in mo d ern econom ic^jife^ may to-day be under- 
stood, in part at least, simply as a^e^lt of thegreater 
matemTweal th^J^yllE^fc inherited,. But there are 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

certain other phenomena which cannot be explained in 
the same way. Thus, to mention only a few facts: 
there is a great difference discoverable in Baden, in 
Bavaria, in Hungary,, in the type of higher education 
which Catholic parents, as opposed to Protestant, give 
their children. That the percentage of Catholics among 
the students and graduates of higher educational 
institutions in general lags behind their proportion of 
the total population,^ .may, to be sure, be largely 
explicable in terms o^ inherited differences of wealth. 
But among the Catholic graduates themselves the per- 
centage of those graduating from the institutions pre- 
paring, in particular, for technical studies and industrial 
and commercial occupations, but in general from those 
preparing for middle-class business life, lags still 
farther behind the percentage of Protestants.^ On the 
other hand. Catholics prefer the sort of training which 
the humanistic Gymnasium affords. That is a circum- 
stance to which the above explanation does not apply, 
but which, on the contrary, is one reason why so few 
Catholics are engaged in capitalistic enterprise. 

Even more striking is a fact which partly explains 
the smaller proportion of Catholics among the skilled 
labourers of modern industry. It is well known that- 
the factory has taken its skilled labour to a large extent 
from young men in the handicrafts ; but this is much 
more true of Protestant than of Catholic journeymen. 
Among journeymen, in other words, the Catholics 
show a stronger propensity to remain in their crafts, 
that is they more often become master craftsmen, 
whereas the Protestants are attracted to a larger extent 
into the factories in order to fill the upper ranjcs of 


Religious Affiliation and Social Stratification 

skilled labour and administrative positions.^® The 
explanation of these cases is undoubtedly that the 
mental and spiritual peculiarities acquired from the 
environment, here the type of education favoured by 
the religious atmosphe fe^Tlhe^ome com munity an d 
the_gi rehtal home, have determined the choice of 
occupation, and through i^he protessional career. 

The smaller participation of Catholics in the modern 
business life of Germany is all the more striking because 
it runs counter to a tendency which has been observed 
at all times ^^ including the present. National or 
religious minorities which are in a position of sub- 
ordination to a group of rulers are likely, through their 
voluntary or involuntary exclusion from positions of 
political influence, to be driven with peculiar force into 
economic activity. Their ablest members seek to satisfy 
the desire for recognition of their abilities in this field, 
since there is no opportunity in the service of the 'State. 
This has undoubtedly been true of the Poles in Russia 
and Eastern Prussia, who have without question been 
undergoing a more rapid economic advance than in 
Galicia, where they have been in the ascendant. It has 
in earlier times been true of the Huguenots in France 
under Louis XIV, the Nonconformists and Quakers in 
England, and, last but not least, the Jew for two 
thousand years. But the Catholics in Germany have 
shown no striking evidence of such a result of their 
position. In the past they have, unlike the Protestants, 
undergone no particularly prominent economic devel- 
opment in the times when they were persecuted or 
only tolerated, either in Holland or in England. On 
the other hand, it is a fact that the Protestants (especi- 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

ally certain branches of the movement to be fully 
discussed later) both as ruling classes and sis ruled, 
both as majority and as minority, have shown a spc^idi 

<.^^tendency to develop economic rationalism v^hich 
cannot be observed to the same extent among Catholics 
either in the one situation or in the other .^^ Thus the 
principal explanation of this difference must be sought 
in the permanent intrinsic character of their religious 
beliefs, and not only in their temporary external 

xl j historico-political situations.^* 

It will be our task to investigate these religions with 
a view to finding out what peculiarities they have or 
have had which might have resulted in the behaviour 
we have described. On superficial analysis, and on the 
basis of certain current impressions, one might be 
tempted to express the diflference by saying that the 
greater other- worldliness of Catholicism, the ascetic 
character of its highest ideals, must have brought up 
its adherents to a greater indifference toward the good 
things of this world. Such an explanation fits the 
popular tendency in the judgment of both religions. 
On the Protestant side it is used as a basis of criticism 
of those (real or imagined) ascetic ideals of the Catholic 
way of life, while the Catholics answer with the 
accusation that materialism results from the seculariza- 
tion of all ideals through Protestantism. One recent 
writer has attempted to formulate the difference of 
their attitudes toward economic life in the following 
manner: "The Catholic is quieter, having less of the 
acquisitive impulse; he prefers a life of the greatest 
possible security, even with a smaller income, to a life 
of risk and excitement, even though it may bring the 

Religions Affiliation and Social Stratification 

chance of gaining honour and riches. The proverb says 
jokingly, ^ either eat well or sleep wellLJn the presen t 
c ase the Protestant prefers to eat well, the Catholic to 
sleep undisturbed .**^^ — ► 

In fact, this desire to eat ,^^! ma y_J]>e-^ cor rect 
though incomplete characterization of the motives of 
many nominal Protestants in Germany at the present 
time.. But things were very different in the past: the 
English, Dutch, and American Puritans were charac- 
terized by the exact opposite of the joy of living, a 
fact which is indeed, as we shall see, most im- 
portant for our present study. Moreover, the French 
Protestants, among others, long retained, and retain to 
a certain extent up to the present, the characteristics 
which were impressed upon the Calvinistic Churches 
everywhere, especially under the cros« in the time of 
the religious struggles. Nevertheless (or was it, perhaps, 
as we shall ask later, precisely on that account?) it is 
well known th^t these characteristics were one of the 
most important factors in the industrial and capital- 
istic development of France, and on the small scale 
permitted them by their persecution remained so. If 
we may call this seriousness and the strong predomi- 
nance of religious interests in the whole conduct of life 
otherworldliness, then the French Calvinists were and 
still are at least as otherworldly as, for instance, the 
North German Catholics, to whom their Catholicism is 
undoubtedly as vital a matter as religion is to any other 
people in the world. Both differ from the predominant 
religious trends in their respective countries in much 
the same way. The Catholics of France are, in their 
lower ranks, greatly interested in the enjoyment of life, 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

in the upper directly hostile to religion. Similarly, the | 
Protestants of Germany are to-day absorbed in worldly 
economic lif^, and their upper ranks are most indifferent 
to religion. ^^j)Hardly anything shows so clearly as this 
parallel that, with such vague ideas as that of the 
alleged other\vorldliness of Catholicism, and the alleged 
materialistic joy of living of Protestantism, and others 
like them, nothing can be accomplished for our pur- 
pose. In such general terms the distinction does not 
even adequately fit the facts of to-day, and certainly not 
of the past. If, however, one wishes to make use of it 
at all, several other observations present themselves at 
once which, combined with the above remarks, suggest 
that the supposed conflict between other- worldliness, 
asceticism, and ecclesiastical piety on the one side, and 
participation in capitalistic acquisition on the other, 
might actually turn out to be an intimate relationship. 

As a matter of fact it is surely remarkable, to begin 
with quite a superficial observation, how large is the 
num ber of representatives o jfjhejnost^jpiritual forms 
p f Chr istian _pifiJty-whQ Jiaye s^rung^rom comme^jal 
jcircles^. In particular, very many of the most zealous 
adherents of Pietism are of this origin. It might be 
explained as a sort of reaction against mammonism on 
the part of sensitive natures not adapted to commercial 
life, and, as in the case of Francis of Assisi. many 
Pietists have themselves interpreted the process of 
their conversion in these terms. Similarly, the remark- 
able circumstance that so many of the greatest capital- 
istic entrepreneurs — down to Cecil Rhodes — have come 
from clergymen's families might be explained as a 
reaction against their ascetic upbringing. But this 

Religious Affiliation and Social Stratification 

form of explanation fails where an extraordinary 
capitalistic business sense is combined in the same 
persons and groups with the most intensive forms of a 
piety which penetrates and dominates their whole lives. 
Such cases are not isolated, but these traits are charac- 
teristic of many of the most important Churches and 
sects in the history of Protestantism. Especially 
Calvinism, wherever it has appeared,^® has shown 
;:his combination. However little, in the time of the 
expansion of the Reformation, it (or any other Protest- 
ant belief) was bound up with any particular social 
class, it is characteristic and in a certain sense typical 
that in French Huguenot Churches monks and business 
men (merchants, craftsmen) were particularly numer- 
ous among the proselytes, especially at the time of the 
persecution.^'^ Even the Spaniards knew that heresy 
(i.e. the Calvinism of the Dutch) promoted trade, and 
this coincides with the opinions which Sir William 
Petty expressed in his discussion of the reasons for the 
capitalistic development of the Netherlands. Gothein ^^ 
rightly calls the Calvinistic diaspora the seed-bed of 
capitalistic economy .^^ Even in this case one might'' 
consider the decisive factor to be the superiority of the 
French and Dutch economic cultures from which these 
communities sprang, or perhaps the immense influence 
of exile in the breakdown of traditional relationships .^^^ 
But in France the situation was, as we know from 
Colbert's struggles, the same even in the seventeenth 
century. Even Austria, not to speak of other countries, 
directly imported Protestant craftsmen. 
I But not all the Protestant denominations seem to 
have had an equally strong influence in this direction. / 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

That of Calvinism, even in Germany, was among the 
strongest, it seems, and the reformed faith ^^ more 
than the others seems to have promoted the develop- 
ment of the spirit of capitalism, in the Wupperthal as 
well as elsewhere. Much more so than Lutheranism, 
as comparison both in general and in particular 
instances, especially in the Wupperthal, seems to 
prove .22 por Scotland, Buckle, and among English 
poets, Keats, have emphasized these same relation- 
ships. ^^ Even more striking, as it is only necessary to 
mention, is the connection of a religious way of life with 
the most intensive development of business acumen 
among those sects whose otherworldliness is as 
proverbial as their wealth, especially the Quakers and 
the Mennonites. The part which the former have 
played in England and North America fell to the latter 
in Germany and the Netherlands. That in East Prussia 
Frederick William I tolerated the Mennonites as in- 
dispensable to industry, in spite of their absolute 
refusal to perform military service, is only one of the 
numerous well-known cases which illustrates the fact, 
though, considering the character of that monarch, 
it is one of the most striking. Finally, that this com- 
bination of intense piety with just as strong a develop- 
ment of business acumen, was also characteristic of 
the Pietists, is common knowledge .^^ 

It is only necessary to think of the Rhine country 
and of Calw. In this purely introductory discussion 
it is unnecessary to pile up more examples. For these 
few already all show one thing:, 'that the spirit of hard 
work, of progress, or whatever else it may be called, 
the awakening of which one is inclined to ascribe to 


Religious Affiliation and Social Stratification 

Protestantism, must not be understood, as there is a 
tendency to do, as joy of living nor in any other sense < 
as connected with the EnHghtenment. The_old_Protest-! 
antismof^Lut her, Calvin, Knox, Voet, had _B recious 
ligipjn^ wit h what fo-day is called progress. To whole 
agpprfgnf nnndern life w hich the most extr eme re- 
ligionist ^ would not wish to s uppress to - day^ it was 
dir ectly hostile . If any innerre lationship between cert ain 
ex pressions of the old Protestant spirit and moder n 
ca pitalistic culture is to be found, we must attempt to 
find it, for bet ter or worse, no t in its alleged more or 
less materialistic or at least anti-ascetic jo y of living . 
but in its purely religious characteristics . Montesquieu 
says {Esprit des Lois, Book XX, chap. 7) of the English 
that they "had progressed the farthest of all peoples 
of the world in three important things: in piety, in 
commerce, and in freedom". Is it not possible »that their 
commercial superiority and their adaptation to free 
political institutions are connected in someway with that 
record of piety which Montesquieu ascribes to them ? 

A large number of possible relationships, vaguely 
perceived, occur to us when we put the question in 
this way. It will now be our task to formulate what 
•occurs to us confusedly as clearly as is possible, con- 
•sidering the inexhaustible diversity to be found in all 
historical material. But in order to do this it is necessary' 
to leave behind the vague and general concepts with 
which we have dealt up to this point, and attempt to 
penetrate into the peculiar characteristics of and the 
differences between those great worlds of religious 
thought which have existed historically in the various 
branches of Christianity. 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

Before we can proceed to that, however, a few 
remarks are necessary, first on the pecuHarities of the 
phenomenon of which we are seeking an historical 
explanation, then concerning the sense in which such 
an explanation is possible at all within 'the limits of 
these investigations. 




In the title of this study is used the somewhat pre- 
tentious phrase, the spirit of capitaHsm. ^vVhat is to be 
understood by it? The attempt to give, anything Hke 
a definition of it brings out certain difficulties which 
are in the very nature of this type of investigation. 

If any object can be found to which this term can 
be applied with any understandable meaning, it can 
only be an historical individual, i.e. a complex of 
elements associated in historical reality which we unite 
into a conceptual whole from the standpoint of their 
cultural significance. 

Such an historical concept, however, since it refers 
in its content to a phenomenon significant for its unique 
individuality, cannot be defined according to the 
formula genus proximum, differentia specifica, but it 
must be gradually put together out of the individual 
parts which are taken from historical reality to make it 
up. Thus the final and defimitive concept cannot stand 
at the beginning of the investigation, but must come at 
the end. We must, in other words, work out in the 
course of the discussion, as its most important result, 
the best conceptual formulation of what we here under- 
stand by the spirit of capitalism, that is the best from 
the point of view which interests us here. This point of 
view (the one of which we shall speak later) is, further, 
by no means the only possible one from which the 
historical phenomena we are investigating can be 
analysed. Other standpoints would, for this as for every 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

historical phenomenon, yield other characteristics as 
the essential ones. The result is that it is by no means 
, necessary to understand by the spirit of capitalism only 
what it will come to mean to us for the purposes of our 
analysis. This is a necessary result of the nature of 
historical com'::epts which attempt for their methodo- 
logical purposves not to grasp historical reality in 
abstract general formulae, but in concrete genetic sets 
of relations whicli are inevitably of a specifically unique 
and individual character.^ 

Thus, if we try to determine the object, the analysis 
and historical explanation of which we are attempting, 
it cannot be in the form of a conceptual definition, but 
at least in the beginning only^ provisional description 
of what is here meant by the spirit of capitalism. Such 
a description is, however, indispensable in order clearly 
to understand the object of the investigation. For this 
purpose we turn to a d'ocument of that s^irit^which 
contains__what we are looking for in almost classical 
purity, and at the^ämeTir/n^^Käs" theliH^^tag of being 
free from all direct relationship to religion, being thus, 
for our purpose syfree of pf^cönceptions7~^ 

I "Remember, that time is money. He that can earn 

' ten shillings a day by his labour, and goes abroad, or 

/ sits idle, one half of that day, though he spends but 

I sixpence during his diversion or idleness, ought not to 

\ reckon that the only expense; he has really spent, or 

\ rather thrown away, five shillings besides. 

"Remember, that credit is money. If a man lets his 
money lie in my hands after it is due, he gives me the 
interest, or so much as I can n:\ake of it during that 


The Spirit of Capitalism 

time. This amounts to a considerable sum where a man 
has good and large credit, and makes good use of it. 
"Remember, that money is of the prolific, generating 

nature. Money can beget rrioney, and its offspring can 

beget more, and so on. Five shillings turned is six, 
turned again it is seven and threepence, and so on, till 
it becomes a hundred pounds. The more there is of it, 
the more it produces every turning, so that the profits 
rise quicker and quicker. He that kills a breeding-sow, 
destroys all her offspring to the thousandth generation. 
He that murders a crown, destroys all that it might/ 
have produced, even scores of pounds." 

"Remember this saying. The good paymaster is lord^JL\ 
^lano ther m ail's purse. He that is known to pay punctu- 
ally and exactly to the time he promises, may at any 
time, and on any occasion, raise all the money his 
friends can spare. This is sometimes of great use. 
After industry and frugality, nothing contributes more 
to the raising of a young man in the world than punctu- 
ality and justice in all his dealings; therefore never 
keep borrowed money an hour beyond the time you 
promised, lest a_disappointment shut up youtiriend!s^ | 
purse for ever. 

"The most trifling actions that affect a man's credit 
are to be regarded. The sound of your hammer at five 
in the morning, or eight at night, heard by a creditor, 
makes him easy six months longer; but if he sees you 
at a billiard-table, or hears your voice at a tavern, when 
you should be at work, he sends for his money the next 
day; demands it, before he can receive it, in a lump. 

"It shows, besides, that you are mindful of what you | 

49 ~ 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

owe ; it makes you appear a careful as well as an honest 
man, and that still increases your credit. 

"Beware of thinking all your own that you possess, 
and of living accordingly. It is a mistake that many 
people who have credit fall into. To prevent this, keep 
an exact account for some time both of your expenses 
and your income. If you take the pains at first to 
mention particulars, it will have this good effect: you 
will discover how wonderfully small, trifling expenses 
mount up to large sums, and will discern what might 
have been, and may for the future be saved, without 
occasioning any great inconvenience." 

"For six pounds a year you may have the use of one 

hundred pounds, provided you are a man of known 

prudence and honesty. 

"He that spends a groat a day idly, spends idly above 

S six pounds a year, which is the price for the use of one 

J hundred pounds. 

4 "He that wastes idly a groat's worth of his time 

?r per day, one day with another, wastes the privilege of 

^ using one hundred pounds each day. 

"^ "He that idly loses five shillings' worth of time, 

^ loses five shillings, and might as prudently throw five 

J shillings into the sea. 
"He that loses five shillings, not only loses that sum, 
but all the advantage that might be made by turning it 
in dealing, which by the time that a young man becomes 
old, will amount to a considerable sum of money." ^ 

It is Benjamin Ferdinand who preaches to us in these 
sentences, the same which Ferdinand Kiirnberger 


The Spirit of Capitalism 

satirizes in his clever and malicious Picture of American 
Culture^ as the supposed confession of faith of the 
Yankee. That it is the spirit of capitaHsm which here 
speaks in characteristic fashion, no one will doubt, 
however little we may wish to claim that everything 
which could be understood as pertaining to that 
spirit is contained in it. Let us pause a moment to 
consider this passage, the philosophy of which Kürn- 
berger sums up in the words, "They make tallow out 
of cattle and money out of men". The peculiarity of 
this philosophy of.^l^variCe appears to be the ideal of 
the honest man of recognized credit, and above all the 
idea of a duty of the individual toward the increase of 
_his capital, which is assumed as an end in itself. Truly 
what is here preached is not simply a means of making 
one*s way in the world , but a pec uliar ethic . The 
infraction of its rules is treated not äs foolishness but 
as forgetfulness of duty. That is the essence of the 
matter. It is not mere business astuteness, that sort of 
thing is common enough, it is an ethos. This is the 
quality which interests us. 

When Jacob Fugger, in speaking to a business 
associate who had retired and who wanted to persuade 
him to do the same, since he had made enough money 
and should let others have a chance, rejected that as 
pusillanimity and answered that "he (Fugger) thought 
otherwise, he wanted to make money as long as he 
could ",^ the spirit of his statement is evidently quite 
different from that of Franklin. What in the former 
case was an expression of commercial daring and a 
personal inclination morally neutral,^ in the latter 
takes on the character of anr ethically coloured maxim 


The 'Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

for the conduct of life. The concept spirit of capitaHsm 
is here used in this specific sense,^ it is the spirit 
of modern capitaHsm. For that we are here deahng 
only with Western European and American capitalism 
is obvious from the way in which the problem was 
stated. Capitalism existed in China, India, Babylon, in 
the classic world, and in the Middle Ages. But in all these 
cases, as we shall see, this particular ethos was lack ing. 
Now, all Franklin's moral attitudes are coloured 
with utilitarianism. Honesty is useful, because it 
assures credit; so are punctuality, industry, frugality, 
and that is the reason they are virtues. A logical 
deduction from this would be that where, for instance, 
the appearance of honesty serves the same purpose, 
that would suffice, and an unnecessary surplus of this 
virtue would evidently appear to Franklin's eyes as 
unproductive waste. And as a matter of fact, the story 
in his autobiography of his conversion to those 
virtues,' or the discussion of the value of a strict 
maintenance of the appearance of modesty, the assidu- 
ous belittlement of one's own deserts in order to gain 
general recognition later ,^ confirms this impression. 
According to Franklin, t hose virtu es, like all others, are 
only in so far virtues as they are actuallv useful to the 
indi vidual, and the surrogate of mere appearanc e is 
always gnfpjfiVnf whe n it accomplishes ^e end in 

view. It ij , a rnnrlnrinn tt l i i i 1 i ij. i ii Hl'ilnhlH fa r «I rirt 

U tilitarianism. The impression of many Oemaans that 
the virtu es professed by Americanism are pure J^ypo- 
crisy seems to have been confirmed by this striking case. 
But in fact the matter is not by any means so simple. 
Benjamin Franklin's own character, as it appears in 

The Spirit of Capitalism 

the really unusual candidness of his autobiography, 
belies that suspicion. The circumstance that he ascribes 
his recognition of the utility of virtue to a divine 
revelation which was intended to lead him in the path 
of righteousness, shows that something more than mere 
garnishing for purely egocentric motives is involved. 

vjn fact, the summum bonum of this ethic, the earning 
of more and more money, combined with the strict 
avoidance of all spontaneous enjoyment of life, is 
above all completely devoid of any eudasmonistic, not 
to say hedonistic, admixture. It is thought of so purely ^^>t^ 
as an end in itself, that from the point of view of the 
happiness of, or utility to, the single individual, it 
appears entirely transcendental and absolutely irra- 
tional.^Man is dominated by the making of money, 
by acquisition as the ultimate purpose of his life. 
"T)conomic acquisition is no longer subordinated to^:^,;^ 
man as the means for the satisfaction of his material f;i 
needs. This reversal of what we should call the natural 
relationship, so irrational from a naive point of view, is 
evidently as definitely a leading principle of capitalism 
as it is foreign to all peoples not under capitalistic 
influence. At the same time it expresses a type of 
feeling which is closely connected with certain religious 
ideas. If we thus ask, why should ''money be made out 
of men", Benjamin Franklin himself, although he was 
a colourless deist, answers in his autobiography with a 
quotation from the Bible, which his strict Calvinistic 
father drummed into him again and again in his youth : 
'*Seest thou a man diligent in his busjiiess.'* He shall 
stand before kings" (Prov. xxii. 29). |The earning of 
money within the modern economic order is, so long 



The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

; ,as it is done legally, the result and the expression of 
( virtu^andproficiencYJn a calling J and this virtue and 
proficiency are, as it is now not difficult to see, the 
real Alpha and Omega of Franklin's ethic, as expressed 
in the passages we have quoted, as well as in all his 
works without exception .^^ 

And in truth this peculiar idea, so familiar to us 
to-day, but in reality so little a matter of course, of 
o ne's duty in a calling, is wh at is most characteristic 
of the[ßocial ethic of capitalistic cultu re / and is in a 
sense the fundame ntal basis of it . It is an obligation 
which the individual is supposed to feel and does feel 
towards the content of his professional^^ activity, no 
matter in what it consists, in particular no matter 
whether it appears on the surface as a utilization of 
his personal powers, or only of his material possessions 
(as capital). 

Of course, this conception has not appeared only 
under capitalistic conditions. On the contrary, we shall 
later trace its origins back to a time previous to the ad- 
vent of capitalism. Still less, naturally, do we maintain 
that a conscious acceptance of these ethical maxims on 
the part of the individuals, entrepreneurs oj labourers, 
in modern capitalistic enterprises, is a condition of 
the further existence of present-day capitalisnaJwThe 
^ I capitalistic economy of the present day is an immense 
\ cosmos into which the individual is born, and which 
presents itself to him, at least as an individual, as an 
unalterable order of things in which he must live. It 
forces the individual, in so far as he is involved in the 
system of market relationships, to conform to capital- 
istic rules of action. The manufacturer who in the long 


The Spirit of Capitalism 

run acts counter to these norms, will just as inevit 
be eliminated from the economic scene as the woi 
who cannot or will not adapt himself to them will be 
thrown into the streets without a job. — ^ 

Thus the capitalism of to-day, which has come to 
dominate economic life, educates and selects the 
economic subjects which it needs through a process of 
economic survival of the fittest. But here one can easily^ 
see the limits of the concept of selection as a means of 
historical explanation^Aln order that a manner of life so 
well adapted to the peculiarities of capitalism could be 
selected at all, i.e. should come to dominate others, it 
had to originate somewhere, and not in isolated indi- 
viduals alone, but as a way of life common to whole 
groups of men.lThisorigin is what really needs explana- 
tion. Concerning the doctrine of the more naive his- 
torical materialism, that such ideas originate as a \ 
reflection or superstructure of economic situations, we \ 
shall speak more in detail below. At this point it will 
suffice for our purpose to call attention to the fact that 
without doubt, in the country of Benjamin Franklin's 
birth (Massachusetts), the spirit of capitalism (in the 
sense we have attached to it) was present before the 
capitalistic order. There were complaints of a peculiarly 
calculating sort of profit-seeking in New England, as 
distinguished from other parts of America, as early as 
1632. It is further undoubted that capitalism remained 
far less developed in some of the neighbouring colonies, 
the later Southern States of the United States of 

America, in spite of the fact that_,these latter were ' ^^ 

founded by large capitalists for business motives, while '^ ^ 
the New England colonies^ereTounded by preachers/ _ 



The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

and seminary graduates with the help of small bour- 
geois, craftsmen and yoemen, for religious reasons. In 
this case the causal relation is certainly the reverse of 
t^at suggested by the materialistic standpointj 
^!5ut the origin and history of such ideas is. «lucli 
more complex than the theorists of the supeßflWfcture 
suppose. The spirit of capitalism, in the sense in which 
we are using the term, had to fight its way to supremacy 
against a whole world of hostile forces. A state of mind 
such as that expressed in the passages we have quoted 
from Franklin, and which called forth the applause of 
a whole people, would both in ancient times and in the 
Middle Ages ^^ have been proscribed as the lowest sort 
of avarice and as an attitude entirely lacking in self- 
respect. It is, in fact, still regularly thus looked upon 
by all those social groups which are least involved in 
or adapted to modern capitalistic conditions. This is 
not wholly because the instinct of acquisition was in 
those times unknown or undeveloped, as has often 
been said. Nor because the auri sacra fames, the greed 
for gold, was then, or now, less powerful outside of 
bourgeois capitalism than within its peculiar sphere, as 
the illusions of modern romanticists are wont to believe. 
The difference between the capitalistic and pre- 
capitalistic spirits is not to be found at this point. The 
greed of the Chinese Mandarin, the old Roman aristo- 
crat, or the modern peasant, can stand up to any 
comparison. And the auri sacra fames of a Neapolitan 
cab-driver or barcaiuolo, and certainly of Asiatic 
representatives of similar trades, as well as of the 
craftsmen of southern European or Asiatic countries, 
is, as anyone can find out for himself, very much more 


The Spirit of Capitalism 

intense, and especially more unscrupulous than that 
of^ay, an Englishman in similar circumstances.^^ 
tChe universal reign of absolute unscrupulousness in 
■ the pursuit of selfish interests by the making of money f 
, has been a specific characteristic of precisely those 
countries whose bourgeois-capitalistic development, 
measured according to Occidental standards, has re- 
mained backward^ As every employer knows, the lack 
of coscienziosita 6i the labourers ^^ of such countries, '; 
for instance Italy as compared with Germany, has 
been, and to a certain extent still is, one of the principal \. 
_Qbstai::les,to their capitalistic development. [Capitalism /\ 
cannot make use of the labour of those who practise 
the doctrine of undisciplined liberum arbitrium, any 
more than it can make use of the business man who 
seems absolutely unscrupulous in his dealings with 
others, as we can learn from Franklin. Hence the 
difference does not lie in the degree of development of 
any impulse to make money QPhe atiri sacra fames is as 
old as the history of man. Out we shall see that those 
who submitted to it without reserve as an uncontrolled 
impulse, such as the Dutch sea-captain who "would 
go through hell for gain, even though he scorched his 
sails", were by no means the representatives of that 
attitude of mind from which the specifically modern 
capitalistic spirit as a mass phenomenon is derived, and 
that is what matters. At all periods of history, wherever it 
was possible, there has been ruthless acquisition, bound 
to no ethical norms whatever] Like war and piracy, trade 
has often been unrestrained in its relations with foreigners 
J^and those outside the group . The double ethic has permit- 
^ted here what was forbidden in dealings among brothers. I 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

Capitalistic acquisition as an adventure has been at 
home in all types of economic society which have known 
trade with the use of money and which have offered it 
opportunities, through commenda^ farming of taxes, 
State loans, financing of wars, ducal courts and office- 
holders. Likewise the inner attitude of the adventurer, 
which laughs at all ethical limitations, has been'^uni- 
versal. Absolute and conscious ruthlessness in acqui- 
sition has often stood in the closest connection with the 
strictest conformity to tradition. Moreover, with the 
breakdown of tradition and the more or less complete 
extension of free economic enterprise, even to within 
the social group, the new thing has not generally been 
ethically justified and encouraged, but only tolerated 
as a fact. And this fact has been treated either as 
ethically indiflferent or as reprehensible, but unfortu- 
nately unavoidable. This has not only been the normal 
attitude of all ethical teachings, but, what is more 
important, also that expressed m the practical action of 
the average man of pre-capitalistic times, pre-capi tal- 
is tic in the sense that the rational utilization of capital 
in a permanent enterprise and the rational capitalistic 
organization of labour had not yet become dominant 
forces in the determination of economic activity. Now 
just this attitude was one of the strongest inner obstacles 
which the adaptation of men to the conditions of an 
ordered bourgeois- capitalistic economy has encoun- 
tered . everywhere . 

CThe most important opponent with which the spirit 

of capitalism, in the sense of a definite standard of life 

claiming ethical sanction, has had to struggle, was that 

type of attitude and reaction to new situations which 


Vi The Spirit of Capitalism 

we may designate as traditionalism.^ In this case also 
every attempt at a final definition must be held in 
abeyance. On the other hand, we must try to make the 
provisional meaning clear by citing a few cases. We 
will begin from below, with the labourers. 

One of the technical means which the modern 
employer uses in order to secure the greatest possible 
amount of work from his men is the device of piece- 
rates Jin agriculture, for instance, the gathering of the 
harvest is a case where the greatest possible intensity 
of labour is called for, since, the weather being un- 
certain, the difference between high profit and heavy 
loss may depend on the speed with which the harvesting 
can be done. Hence a system of piece-rates is almost 
universal in this case. And since the interest of the 
employer in a speeding- up of harvesting increases with 
the increase of the results and the intensity of the work, 
the attempt has again and again been made, by in- 
creasing the piece-rates of the workmen, thereby giving 
them an opportunity to earn what is for them a very 
high wage, to interest them in increasing their own 
efficiency. But a peculiar difficulty has been met with 
surprising frequency: raising the piece-rates has often 
had the result that not more but less has been accom- 
plished in the same time, because the worker reacted 
to the increase not by increasing but by decreasing the 
amount of his work. A man, for instance, who at the 
rate of i mark per acre mowed 2\ acres per day 
and earned 2 J marks, when the rate was raised to 1*25 
marks per acre mowed, not 3 acres, as he might 
easily have done, thus earning 3*75 marks, but only 
2 acres, so that he could still earn the 2\ marks to 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalisn^f- 

which he was accustomed . T he opp ortunity of earninvä^ 
more was less attra ctive than that of working less. He 
did not ask: how much can I earn in a day if I do as 
much work as possible ? but : how much must I work 
in order to earn the wage, 2\ marks, which. I earned 
before and which takes care of my traditional needs? 
This is an example of what is here meant byt radition- 
jlisin . A man does not "by nature" wish to earn m ore 
and more rnoney^ut_simply to live as he is accustomed"* 
to live and to earn as much as is necessary for that 
purpose. Wherever modern capitalism has begun its 

^ork of increasing the productivity of human labour 
by increasing its intensity, it has encountered the 
immensely stubborn resistance of this leading trait of 
pre-capitalistic labour. And to-day it encounters it 
the more, the more backward (from a capitalistic point 
of view) the labouring forces are with which it has 
to deal. 

Another obvious possibility, to return to our example, 
since the appeal to the acquisitive instinct through 
higher wage-rates failed, would have been to try the 
opposite policy, to force the worker by reduction of 
his wage-rates to work harder to earn the same amount 
than he did before. Low wages and high profits seem 
even to-day to a superficial observer tp stand in corre- 
lation ; everything which is paid out in wages seems to 
involve a corresponding reduction of profits. That road 
capitalism has taken again and again since its beginning. 
For centuries it was an article of faith, that low wages 
were productive, i.e. that they increased the material 
results of labour so that, as Pieter de la Cour, on this 
point, as we shall see, quite in the spirit of the old 


The Spirit of Capitalism 

Calvinism, said long ago, the people only work because 
and so long as they are poor. 

But the effectiveness of this apparently so efficient 
method has its limits. ^^ Of course the presence of a 
surplus population which it can hire cheaply in the 
labour _market is a necessity for the development of 
capitalism. But though too large a reserve army may 
in certain cases favour its quantitative expansion, it 
checks its qualitative developrhent, especially the 
transition, to types of enterprise which make more 
intensive use of labour. Low wages are by no means 
identical with cheap labour. ^^ From a purely quantita-; 
tive point of view the efficiency of labour decreases! 
with a wage which is physiologically insufficient, whichj 
may in the long run even mean a survival of the unfit. 
The present-day average Silesian mows, when he 
exerts himself to the full, little more than two-thirds as 
much land as the better paid and nourished Pomeranian 
or Mecklenburger, and the Pole, the further East he 
comes from, accomplishes progressively less than the 
German. Low wages fail even from a purely business 
point of view wherever it is a question of producing 
goods which require any sort o'f skilled labouf, or the 
use of expensive machinery which is easily damaged, 
or in general wherever any great amount of sharp 
attention or of initiative is required. Here low wages do 
not pay, and their effect is the opposite of what was 
intended .(For not only is a developed sense of responsi- 
bility absolutely indispensable, but in general also an 
attitude which, at least during working hours, is freed 
from co ntinual c alculati ons of how t he customary wage 
may be earned with a maximum of comfort and a 

"^The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

minimum of exertion. Labour must, on the contrary^ 
be performed as if it were an absolute end in itse lL_A 
calling. But such an attitude is by no means a product 
of nature. It cannot be evoked by low wages or high 
ones alone, but can only be the product of a long and 
arduous process of education. To-day, capitalism, once 
in the .saddle, can recruit its labouring force in all 
A I industrial countries with comparative ease. In the past 
this was in every case an extremely difficult^roblem.^' 
d even to-day it could probably not get along~with- 
out the support of a powerful ally along the way, which, 
as we shall see below, was at hand at the time of its 

What is meant can again best be explained by means 
of an example. The type of backward traditional form 
of labour is to-day very often exemplified by women 
workers, especially unmarried ones. An almost universal 
complaint of employers of girls, for instance German 
girls, is that they are almost entirely unable and un- 
willing to give up methods of work inherited or once 
learned in favour of more efficient ones, to adapt 
themselves to new methods, to learn and to concentrate 
their intelligence, or even to use it at all. Explanations 
of the possibility of making work easier, above all more 
profitable to themselves, generally encounter a com- 
plete lack of understanding. Increases of piece-rates are 
without avail against the stone wall of habit. In general 
it is otherwise, and that is a point of no little importance 
from our view-point, only with girls having a specifically 
religious, especially a Pietistic, background. One often 
hears, and statistical investigation confirms it,^® that by 
far the best chances of economic education are found 

The Spirit of Capitalism 

among this group. The ability of mental concentration, 
as well as the absolutely essentiajjFeeling of obligation 
tojone's job, are here most often combined with a 
strict economy which calculates the possibility of high 
earnings, and a cool self-control and frugality which 
enormously increase performance. This provides the 
most favourable foundation for the conception of 
lalwmrasjLnjendjn itself , as a calling which is necessary 
to capitalism : the chances of overcoming traditionalism 
are greatest oiT account of the religious upbringing. 
This observation of present-day capitalism ^^ in itself 
suggests that it is worth while to ask how this connec- 
tion of adaptability to capitalism with religious factors 
may have come about in the days of the early develop- 
ment of capitalism. For that they were even then 
present in much the same form can be inferred from 
numerous facts. For instance, the dislike and the per- 
secution which Methodist workmen in the eighteenth 
century met at the hands of their comrades were 
not solely nor even principally the result of their 
religious eccentricities, England had seen many of 
those and more striking ones. It rested rather, as the 
destruction of their tools, repeatedly mentioned in the 
reports, suggests, upon their specific willingness to 
work as we should say to-day. 

However, let us again return to the present, and this 
time to the entrepreneur, in order to clarify the meaning 
of traditionalism in his case. 

Sombart, in his discussions of the genesis of capital- 
ism ,20 has distinguished between the satisfaction of 
needs and acquisition as the two great leading prin- 
ciples in economic history. In the former case the 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

attainment of the goods necessary to meet personal 
needs, in the latter a struggle for profit free from the 
limits set by needs, have been the ends controlling the 
form and direction of economic activity. What he calls 
the economy of needs seems at first glance to be 
identical with what is here described as economic 
traditionalism. That may be the case if the concept of 
needs is limited to traditional needs. But if that is not 
done, a number of economic types which must be 
considered capitalistic according to the definition of 
capital which Sombart gives in another part of his 
work, 2^ would be excluded from the category of 
acquisitive economy and put into that of needs 
economy. Enterprises, namely, which are carried on 
by private entrepreneurs by utilizing capital (money or 
goods with a money value) to make a profit, purchasing 
the means of production and selling the product, 
i.e. undoubted capitalistic enterprises, may at the same 
time have a traditionalistic character. This has, in the 
course even of modem economic history, not been 
merely an occasional case, but rather the rule, with 
continual interruptions from repeated and increasingly 
powerful conquests of the capitalistic spirit. To be sure 
the capitalistic form of an enterprise and the spirit in 
which it is run generally stand in some sort of adequate 
relationship to each other, but not in one of necessary 
interdependence. Nevertheless, we provisionally use 
the expression spirit of (modern) capitalism ^^ to 
describe that attitude which seeks profit rationally and 
systematically in the manner which we have illustrated 
by the example of Benjamin Franklin. This, however, 
is justified by the historical fact that that attitude of 


The Spirit of Capitalism 

mind has on the one hand found its most suitable 
expression in capitahstic enterprise, while on the 
other the enterprise has derived its most suitable 
motive force from the spirit of capitalism. 

But the two may very well occur separately. Benjamin 
Franklin was filled with the spirit of capitalism at a time 
when his printing business did not' differ in form from 
any handicraft enterprise. And we shall see that at the 
beginning of modern times it was by no means the 
capitalistic entrepreneurs of the commercial aristocracy, 
who were either the sole or the predominant bearers 
of the attitude we have here called the spirit of capital- 
ism.2^ It was much more the rising strata of the lower 
industrial middle classes. Even in the nineteenth 
century its classical representatives were not the 
elegant gentlemen of Liverpool and Hamburg, with 
their commercial fortunes handed down for genera- 
tions, but the self-made parvenus of Manchester and 
Westphalia, who often rose from very modest circum- 
stances. As early as the sixteenth century the situation 
was similar; the industries which arose at that time 
were mostly created by parvenus .^^ 

The management, for instance, of a bank, a wholesale 
export business, a large retail establishment, or of a 
large putting-out enterprise dealing with goods pro- 
duced in homes, is certainly only possible in the form 
of a capitalistic enterprise. Nevertheless, they may all 
be carried on in a traditionalistic spirit. In fact, the 
business of a large bank of issue cannot be carried on 
in any other way. The foreign trade of whole epochs 
has rested on the basis of monopolies and legal privileges 
of strictly traditional character. In retail trade — and we 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

are not here talking of the small men without capital 
who are continually crying out for Government aid — 
the revolution which is making an end of the old 
traditionalism is still in full swing. It is the same 
development which broke up the old putting-out 
system, to which modern domestic labour is related 
only in form. How this revolution takes place and 
what is its significance may, in spite of the fact these 
things are so familiar, be again brought out by a 
concrete example. 

Until about the middle of the past century the life 
of a putter-out was, at least in many of the branches of 
the Continental textile industry ,2^ what we should 
to-day consider very comfortable. We may imagine its 
routine somewhat as follows : The peasants came with 
their cloth, often (in the case of linen) principally or 
entirely made from raw material which the peasant 
himself had produced, to the town in which the 
putter-out lived, and after a careful, often official, 
appraisal of the quality, received the customary price 
for it. The putter-out's customers, for markets any 
appreciable distance away, were middlemen, who also 
came to him, generally not yet following samples, but 
seeking traditional qualities, and bought from his 
warehouse, or, long before delivery, placed orders 
which were probably in turn passed on to the peasants. 
Personal canvassing of customers took place, if at all, 
only at long intervals. Otherwise correspondence 
sufficed, though the sending of samples slowly gained 
ground. The number of business hours was very 
moderate, perhaps five to six a day, sometimes con- 
siderably less; in the rush season, where there was one, 

The Spirit of Capitalism 

more. Earnings were moderate; enough to lead a 
respectable life and in good times to put away a little. 
On the whole, relations among competitors were rela- 
tively good, with a large degree of agreement on the 
fundamentals of business. A long daily visit to the 
tavern, with often plenty to drink, and a congenial circle 
of friends, made life comfortable and leisurely. 

The form of organization was in every respect 
capitalistic ; the entrepreneur's activity was of a purely 
business character; the use of capital, turned over in 
the business, was indispensable ; and finally, the objec- 
tive aspect of the economic process, the book-keeping, 
was rational. was traditionalistic business, if one_' 
considers the spirit which animated the entrepreneur: 
the traditional manner of life, the traditional rate of 
profit, the traditional amount of work, the traditional 
manner of regulating the relationships with labour, and 
the^ssentially traditional circle of customers and the 
manner of attracting new ones. All these dominated 
the conduct of the business, were at the basis, one may 
say, of the ethosoi this group of business men. 

Now at some time this leisureliness was suddenly 
destroyed, and often entirely without any essential 
change in the form of organization, such as the transi- 
tion to a unified factory, to mechanical weaving, etc. 
What happened was, on the contrary, often no more than 
this: some young man from one of the putting-out 
families went out into the country, carefully chose 
weavers for his employ, greatly increased the rigour of 
his supervision of their work, and thus turned them 
from peasants into labourers. On the other hand, he 
would begin to change his marketing methods by so 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

far as possible going directly to the final consumer, 
would take the details into his own hands, would 
personally solicit customers, visiting them every year, 
and above all would adapt the quality of the product 
directly to their needs and wishes. At the same time 
he began to introduce the principle of low prices and 
large turnover. There was repeated what everywhere 
and always is the result of such a process of rationali- 
zation: those who would not follow suit had to go 
out of business .\The idyllic state collapsed under the 
pressure of a bitter competiti v e struggle, respectable 
fortunes were made,- and not lent out at interest, but 
always reinvested in the business. The old leisurely and 
comfortable attitude toward life gave way to a hard 
frugality in which some participated and came to the 
top, because they did not wish to consume but to earn, 
while others who wished to keep on with the old ways 
were forced to curtail their consumption .^^ 

And, what is most important in this connection, it 
was not generally in such cases a stream of new money 
invested in the industry which brought about this 
revolution — in several cases known to me the whole 
revolutionary process was set in motion with a few 
thousands of capital borrowed from relations — but the 
,new spirit, the spirit of modem capitalism, had set to 
work. The question of the motive forces in the expan- 
sion of modem capitalism is not in the first instance a 
question of the origin of the capital sums which were 
available for capitalistic uses, but, above all, of the 
development of the spirit of capitalism. Where it 
appears and is able to work itself out, it produces its 
own capital and monetary supplies as the means to its 

The Spirit of Capitalism 

ends, but the reverse is not true.^'^ Its entry on the 
scene was not generally peaceful. A flood of mistrust, 
sometimes of hatred, above all of moral indignation, 
regularly opposed itself to the first innovator. Often — I 
know of several cases of the sort — regular legends of 
mysterious shady spots in his previous life have been 
produced. jit is very easy not to recognize that only an 
unusually strong character could save an entrepreneur 
of this new type from the loss of his temperate self- 
control and from both moral and economic shipwreckj^ 
Furthermore, along with clarity of vision and ability to 
act, it is only by virtue of very definite and highly 
developed ethical qualities that it has been possible for 
him to command the absolutely indispensable confi- 
dence of his customers and workmen. Nothing else 
could have given him the strength to overcome the 
innumerable obstacles, above all the infinitely more 
intensive work which is demanded of the modern 
entrepreneur. But these are ethical qualities of quite 
a diff^erent sort from those adapted to the traditionalism 
of the past. 

And, as a rule, it has been neither dare-devil and 
unscrupulous speculators, economic adventurers such as 
we meet at all periods of economic history, nor simply 
great financiers who have carried through this change, 
outwardly so inconspicuous, but nevertheless so de- 
cisive for the penetration of economic life with the new 
spirit. ^n the contrary, they were men who had grown 
up in the hard school of life, calculating and daring at 
the same time, above all temperate and reliable, shrewd 
and completely devoted to their business, with strictly 
bourgeois opinions and principlesJ 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

One is tempted to think that these personal moral 
qualities have not the slightest relation to any ethical 
maxims, to say nothing of religious ideas, but that the 
essential relation between them is negative. The ability 
to free oneself from the common tradition, a sort of 
liberal enlightenment, seems likely to be the most 
suitable basis for such a business man's success. And 
to-day that is generally precisely the case. Any relation- 
ship between religious beliefs and conduct is generally 
absent, and where any exists, at least in Germany, it 
tends to be of the negative sort. The people filled with 
the spirit of capitali&m to-day tend to be indifferent, if 
not hostile, to the Church. The thought of the pious 
boredom of paradise has little attraction for their 
active natures; religion appears to them as a means of 
drawing people away from labour in this world. If you 
ask them what is the meaning of their restless activity, 
why they are never satisfied with what they have, thus 
appearing so senseless to any purely worldly view of 
life, they would perhaps give the answer, if they know 
any at ail: "to provide for my children and grand- 
children". But more often and, since that motive is 
not peculiar to them, but was just as effective for the 
traditionalist, more correctly, simply: that business 
with its continuous work has become a necessary part 
of their lives. That is in fact the only possible motivä^ 
tion, but it at the same time expresses what is, seen 
from the view-point of personal happiness, so irrational 
about this sort of life, where a man exists for the sake 
of his business, instead of the reverse."^ "" 

Of course, the desire for the power and recognition 
which the mere fact of wealth brings plays its part. 

The Spirit of Capitalistn 

When the imagination of a whole people has once been 
turned toward purely quantitative bigness, as in the 
United States, this romanticism of numbers exercises 
an irresistible appeal to the poets among business men. 
Otherwise it is in general not the real leaders, ^nd 
especially not the permanently successful entrepreneurs, 
who are taken in by it. In particular, the resort to en- 
tailed estates and the nobility, with sons whose conduct 
at the university and in the officers' corps tries to cover 
up their social origin, as has been the typical history of 
German capitalistic parvenu families, is a product of 
later decadence. The ideal type ^® of the capitalistic 
entrepreneur, as. it has been represented even in 
Germany by occasional outstanding examples, has no 
relation to such more or less refined climbers. He 
avoids ostentation and unn ecessary expenditure^ as 
we ir~ äs conscious enjoyment of h Ts power, and is 
emEarras sed^y the outward signs of the^cial recogni- 
HoiT wHich he receives. His manner oFlife is, in other 
words, often, and we shall have to investigate the 
historical significance of just this important fact, 
distinguished by a certain ascetic tendency, as appears 
clearly enough in the sermon of Franklin which we 
have quoted. It is, namely, by no means exceptional, 
but rather the rule, for him to have a_s^t_üfjQaodesty 
which is essentially more honest than the reserve which 
Franklin so shrewdly recommends. He gets nothing 
out of his wealth for himself, except the irrational sense ^ 
of jiaving done his job well . 

But it is just that which seems to the pre-capitalistic 
man so incomprehensible and mysterious, so unworthy 
and contemptible. That anyone should be able to make 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

it the sole purpose of his Hfe-work, to sink into the 
grave weigiied down with a great material load of 
money a.*id goods, seems to him explicable only as the 
prod'-^ct of a pf fvprsf^ instinr t, the auri sacra fames. 

.^.c present under our individualistic political, legal, 
and economic institutions, with the forms of organiza- 
tion and general structure which are peculiar to our 
economic order, this spirit of capitalism might be 
understandable, as has been said, purely as a result 
of adaptation. The capitalistic system so needs this 
devotion to the calling of making money, it is an 
attitude toward material goods which is so well suited 
to that system, so intimately bound up with the condi- 
tions of survival in the economic struggle for existence, 
that there can to-day no longer be any question of a 
necessary connection of that acquisitive manner of life 
with any single Weltanschauung. In fact, it no longer 
needs the support of any religious forces, and feels the 

si attempts of religion to influence economic life, in so 
far as they can still be felt at all, to be as much an 
unjustified interference as its regulation by the State. 
In such circumstances men's commercial and social 
interests do tend to determine their opinions and 
attitudes. Whoever does not adapt his manner of life 
to the conditions of capitalistic success must go under, 

■iz^ br at least cannot rise. But these are phenomena of a 
time in which modern capitalism has become dominant 
and has become emancipated from its old supports. 
But as it could at one time destroy the old forms of 
mediaeval regulation of economic life only in alliance 
with the growing power of the modern State, the same, 
we may say provisionally, may have been the case in 


The Spirit of Capitalism 

its relations with religious forces. Whether and in what 
sense that was the case, it is our task to investisrate. 
ror that the conception or money-making as an end in 
itself to which people were bound, as a calling, was 
contrary to the ethical feelings of whole epochs, it is 
hardly necessary to prove. The dogma Deo placer e vix 
potest which was incorporated into the canon law and 
applied to the activities of the merchant, and which 
at that time (like the passage in the gospel about 
interest) ^^ was considered genuine, as well as St. 
Thomas's characterization of the desire for gain as 
turpitudo (which term even included unavoidable and 
hence ethically justified profit-making), already con- 
tained a high degree of concession on the part of the ^ 
Catholic doctrine to the financial powers with which ^ 
the Church had such intimate political relations in 1^9 
the Italian cities, ^^ as compared with the much more 
radically anti-chrematistic views of comparatively wide 
circles. But even where the doctrine was still better 
accommodated to the facts, as for instance with 
Anthony of Florence, jhe feeling was never quite 
overcome, that activity directed to acquisition for its 
own sake was at bottom a pudendum which was to be 
tolerated only because of the unalterable necessities of 
life in this worldj 

Some moralists of that time, especially of the 
nominalistic school, accepted developed capitalistic 
business forms as inevitable, and attempted to justify 
them, especially commerce, as necessary. The iudustria 
developed in it they were able to regard, though not 
without contradictions, as a legitimate source of profit, 
and hence ethically unobjectionable. But the dominant 

^ 73 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

doctrine rejected the spirit of capitalistic acquisition 
as turpitudo, or at least could not give it a positive 
ethical sanction. An ethical attitude like that of Ben- 
jamin Franklin would have been simply unthinkable. 
This was, above all, the attitude of capitalistic circles 
themselves. Their life-work was, so long as they clung 
to the tradition of the Church, at best something 
morally indifferent. It was tolerated, but was still, even 
if only on account of the continual danger of collision 
with the Church's doctrine on usury, somewhat 
dangerous to salvation. Quite considerable sums, as 
the sources show, went at the death of rich people to 
religious institutions as conscience money, at times 
even back to former debtors as usiira which had been 
unjustly taken from them. It was otherwise, along with 
heretical and other tendencies looked upon with dis- 
approval, only in those parts of the commercial aris- 
tocracy which were already emancipated from the 
tradition. But even sceptics and people indifferent to 
the Church often reconciled themselves with it by 
gifts, because it was a sort of insurance against the 
uncertainties of what might come after death, or 
because (at least according to the very widely held 
latter view) an external obedience to the commands of 
the Church was sufficient to insure salvation. ^^ Here 
the either non-moral or immoral character of their 
action in the opinion of the participants themselves 
comes clearly to light. 

Now, how could activity, which was at best ethically 
tolerated, turn into a calling in the sense of Benjamin 
Franklin.'' The fact to be explained historically is that 
in the most highly capitalistic centre of that time, in 


The Spirit of Capitalism 

Florence of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the 
money ;md capital market of all the great political 
Powers,, this attitude was considered ethically un- 
justifiable, or at best to be tolerated. But in the back- 
woods small bourgeois circumstances of Pennsylvania 
in the eighteenth century, where business threatened 
for simple lack of money to fall back into barter, where 
there was hardly a sign of large enterprise, where only 
the earliest beginnings of banking were to be found, 
the same thing was considered the essence of moral 
conduct, even commanded in the name of duty. To 
s peak h ere of aj;eflection of m aterial conditions in the 
ideal^ superstructure would be patent nonsense. WhaP 
was the background of ideas which couFd account for 
the sort of activity apparently directed toward profit 
alone as a calling toward which the individual feels 
himself to have an ethical obligation? For it was this 
idea which gave the way of life of the new entrepreneur 
its ethical foundation and justification. ^ 

The attempt has been made, particularly by Sombart, 
in what are often judicious and eflfective observations, 
to depict economic rationalism as the salient feature of 
modern economic life as a whole. Undoubtedly with 
justification, if by that is meant the extensipn of the 
productivity of labour which has, through the " sub- 
ordination of the process of production to scientific 
points of view, relieved it from its dependence upon 
the natural organic limitations of the hun>an individual. 
Now this process of rationalization i^ the field of 
technique and economic organization undoubtedly 
determines an important part of the ideals of life of 
modern bourgeois society. Labour in the service of a 



The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capialism 

rational organization for the provision of humanity with 
material goods has without doubt always appeared to 
representatives of the capitalistic spirit as one of the 
most important purposes of their life-work. It is only 
necessary, for instance, to read Franklin's account of 
his efforts in the service of civic improvements in 
Philadelphia clearly to apprehend this obvious trutl . 
And the joy and pride of having given employment to 
numerous people, of having had a part in the economic 
progress of his home town in the sense referring to 
figures of population and volume of trade which 
capitalism associated with the word, all these things 
obviously are part .of the specific and undoubtedly 
idealistic satisfactions in life to modern men of busi- 
ness. Similarly it is one of the fundamental character- 
istics of an individualistic capitalistic economy that it 
is rationalized on the basis of rigorous calculation, 
directed with foresight and caution toward the economic 
success which is sought in sharp contrast to the hand- 
to-mouth existence of the peasant, and to the privileged 
traditionalism of the guild craftsman and of the 
adventurers' capitalism, oriented to the exploitation of 
political opportunities and irrational speculation. 

It might thus seem that the development of the 
spirit of capitalism is best understood as part of the 
development of rationalism as a whole, and could be 
deduced from the fundamental position of rationalism 
on the basic problems of life. In the process Protestant- 
ism would only have to be considered in so far as it 
had formed a stage prior to the development of a purely 
rationalistic philosophy. But any serious attempt to 
carry this thesis through makes it evident that such a 


/ The Spirit of Capitalism 

simple way of putting the question will not work, 
simply becaus'e of the fact that the history of rationalism 
shows 3 development which by no means follows 
parallel lines in the various departments of life. The 
rationalization of private law, for instance, if it is 
thought of as a logical simplification and rearrange- 
ment of the content of the law, was achieved in the 
highest hitherto known degree in the Roman law of 
late antiquity. But it remained most backward in some 
of the countries with the highest degree of economic 
rationalization, notably in England, where the Renais- 
sance of Roman Law was overcome by the power of' 
the great legal corporations, while it has always retained 
its supremacy in the Catholic countries of Southern 
Europe. The worldly rational philosophy of the 
eighteenth century did not find favour alone or even 
principally in the countries of highest capitalistic 
development. The doctrines of Voltaire are even to-day 
the common property of broad upper, and what is 
practically more important, middle-class groups in 
the Romance Catholic countries. Finally, if under 
practical rationalism is understood the type of attitude 
which sees and judges the world consciously in terms 
of the worldly interests of the individual ego, then this 
view of life was and is the special peculiarity of the 
peoples of the libenim arbitrium, such as the Italians 
and the French are in very flesh and blood. But we 
have already convinced ourselves that this is by no 
means the soil in which that relationship of a man to 
his calling as a task, which is necessary' to capitalism, 
has pre-eminently grown. In fact, one may — this simple 
proposition, which is often forgotten, should be placed 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capuutism 

at the beginning of every study which essays to deal 
with rationalism — rationalize life from fundamentally 
different basic points of view and in very different 
directions. Rationalism is a n historical c oncept which 
covers a j^JKile-WQ rici of different Üiings. It will be our 
task to find out whose intellectual ch ild The particular 
concrete form of rational thought ~was, from which 
theidea of a c alling and the devotion to labour in _the 
calling lias grown, which i s, as we haye seen^ so irra- 
tional from the standpoin t of purely eudaemoni^tic_ 
self-interest, but which has been and still is one of the 
most characteristic elements of our capitalistic culture.. 
We are here particularly interested in the origin of 
precisely the irrational element which lies in this, as 
in every conception of a calling. 



Task of the Investigation 

Now it is unmistakable that even in the German word 
Bert^, and perhaps still more clearly in the English 
calling, a religious conception, that of a task set by 
God7^~at~least suggested. The more emphasis is pur 
upon the word in a concrete case, the more evident is 
the connotation. And if we trace the history of the 
word through the civilized languages, it appears that 
neither the predominantly Catholic peoples nor those 
of classical antiquity^ have possessed any expression 
of similar connotation for what we know as a calling 
(in the sense of a life-task, a definite field in which to 
work), while pne has existed for al l predomi nantly 
Protestantpeo^les^ It may be further shown that this 
IS not due to any ethnical peculiarity of the languages 
concerned. It is not, for instance, the product of a 
Germanic spirit, but in its modern meaning the word 
comes from the Bible translations, through the spirit 
of the translator, not that of the original.- In Luther's 
translation of the Bible it appears to have first been 
used at a point in Jesus Sirach(xi. 20 and 21) precisely 
in our modern sense. ^ After that it speedily took on its 
present meaning in the everyday speech of all Pro- 
testant peoples, while earlier not even a suggestion of 
such a meaning could be found in the secular literature 
of any of them, and even, in religious writings, so far 
as I can ascertain, it is only found in one of the German 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

mystics whose influence on Luther is well known. 

Like the meaning of the word, the idea is new, a 

product of the Reformation. This may be assumed as 

generally known. It is true that certain suggestions of 

the positive valuation of routine activity in the world, 

which is contained in this conception of the calling, had 

already existed in the Middle Ages, and even in late 

Hellenistic antiquity. We shall speak of that later. 

But at least one thing was unquestionably new: the 

valuation of the fulfilment of duty in worldly affairs as 

the highest form which the moral activity of the 

individual could assiime. This it was which inevitably 

gave every-day worldly activity a religious significance, 

and which first created the conception of a calling in 

this sense. The conception of the calling thus brings 

out that central dogma of all Protestant denominations 

which the Catholic division of ethical precepts into 

prcecepta and consilia discards. The only way of living 

acceptably to God was not to surpass worldly morality 

in monastic asceticism, but solely through the fulfilment 

of the obligations imposed upon the individual by his 

!^ position in the worjd. That was his calling. 

Luther* developed the concept ion~m'The course of 
the first decade of his activity as a reformer. At first, 
quite in harmony with the prevailing tradition of the 
Middle Ages, as represented, for example, by Thomas 
Aquinas,^ he thought of activity in the world as a thing 
of the flesh, even though willed by God. I,t is the 
indispensable natural condition of a life of faith, but 
in itself, like eating and drinkjng, morally ijieutral.^ But 
with the development of the conception of sola fide in 
all its consequences, and its logical result, the increas- 

Luther's Conception of the Calling 

ingly sharp emphasis against the Catholic cons.;^^ 
evangelica of the monks as dictates of the devil, tL, ' 
calling grew in importance. [The monastic life is not 
.only quite devoid of value as a means of justification 
before God, but he also looks upon its renunciation of y 
the. duties of this world as the product of selfishness, yN- 
withdrawing from temporal obligations. In contrast, 
labour in a calling appears to him as the outward 
expression of brotherly love]] This he proves by the 
observation that the division of labour forces every 
individual to work for others, but his view-point is 
highly naive, forming an almost grotesque contrast to J 
Adam Smith's well-known statements on the same 
subject.' However, this justification, which is evidently 
essentially scholastic, soon disappears again, and there 
remains, more and more strongly emphasized, the state- 
ment that the fulfilment of worldly duties is under all 
circumstances the only way to live acceptably to God. It 
and it alone is the will of God , and hence every legitimate /C 
calling has exactly the same worth in the sight of God.® 

[That this moral justification of worldly activity was "^ — 
one of the most important results of the Reformation, 
especially of Luther's part in it, is beyond doubt, and 
may even be considered a platitude.^ This attitude is 
worlds removed from the deep hatred of Pascal, in his 
contemplative moods, for all worldly activity, which 
he was deeply convinced could only be understood in 
terms of vanity or low cunning.^^ And it differs even 
more from the Hberal utilitarian compromise with the 
world at which the Jesuits arrived] But just what the prac- 
tical significance of this achievement of Protestantism 
was in detail is dimly felt rather than clearly perceived. 


jy^g r'rotestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

j^^.n the first place it is hardly necessary to point out 
lat Luther cannot be claimed for the spirit of capital- 
ism in the sense in which we have used that term 
above, or for that matter in any sense whatever. The 
religious circles which to-day most enthusiastically 
celebrate that great achievement of the Reformation 
are by no means friendly to capitalism in any sense. 
And Luther himself would, without doubt, have 
sharply repudiated any connection with a point of 
view like that of Franklin. Of course, one cannot con- 
sider his complaints against the great merchants of his 
time, such as the Fuggers,^^ as evidence in this case. 
For the struggle against the privileged position, legal 
or actual, of single great trading companies in the six- 
teenth and seventeenth centuries may best be compared 
with the modern campaign against the trusts, and can 
no more justly be considered in itself an expression of 
a traditionalistic point of view. Against these people, 
against the Lombards, the monopolists, speculators, 
and bankers patronized by the Anglican Church and 
the kings and parliaments of England and France, both 
the Puritans and the Huguenots carried on a bitter 
struggle. ^2 Cromwell, after the battle of Dunbar 
(September 1650), wrote to the Long Parliament: 
"Be pleased to reform the abuses of all professions: 
and if there be any one that makes many poor to make 
a few rich, that suits not a Commonwealth." But, 
nevertheless, we will find Cromwell following a quite 
specifically capitalistic line of thought. ^^ On the other 
hand, Luther's numerous statements against usury or 
interest in any form reveal a conception of the nature 
of capitalistic acquisition which, compared with that of 

Luther's Conception of the Calling 

late Scholasticism, is, from a capitalistic view-point, 
definitely backward .^^ Especially, of course, the doctrine 
of the sterility of money which Anthony of Florence 
had already refuted. 

But it is unnecessary to go into detail. For, above all, 
the consequences of the conception of the calling in the 
religious sense for worldly conduct were susceptible 
to quite different interpretations. The effect of the 
Reformation as such was only that, as compared with 
tKe~~Cäthölic attitude, the moral emphasis on and the ' 
religious sanction of, organized worldly labour in a 
calling was mightily increased. The way in which the 
concept of the calling, which expressed this change, 
should develop further depended upon the religious 
evolution which now took place in the different Pro- 
testant Churches. The authority of the Bible, from 
which Luther thought he had derived his idea of the 
calling, on the whole favoured a traditionalistic inter- 
pretation. The old Testament, in particular, though in 
the genuine prophets it showed no sign of a tendency 
to excel worldly morality, and elsewhere only in quite 
isolated rudiments and suggestions, contained a similar 
religious idea entirely in this traditionalistic sense. 
Everyone should abide by his living and let the godless 
mn after gain. That is the sense of all the statements 
which bear directly on worldly activities. Not until the 
Talmud is a partially, but not even then fundamentally, 
different attitude to be found. The personal attitude 
of Jesus is characterized in classical purity by the 
typical antique-Oriental plea: "Give us this day our 
daily bread." The element of radical repudiation 
of the world, as expressed in the fiafiajvas rrjs dBiKlas, 



The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

excluded the possibility that the modern idea of a 
calling should be based on his personal authority .^^ In 
the apostolic era as expressed in the New Testament, 
especially in St. Paul, the Christian looked upon 
worldly activity either with indifference, or at least 
essentially traditionalistically ; for those first generations 
were filled with eschato logical hopes. Since everyone 
was simply waiting for the coming of the Lord, there 
was nothing to do but remain in the station and in 
the worldly occupation in which the call of the Lord 
had found him, and labour as before. Thus he would 
not burden his brothers as an object of charity, and it 
would only be for a little while. Luther read the Bible 
through the spectacles of his whole attitude; at the time 
and in the course of his development from- about 1518 
to 1530 this not only remained traditionalistic but 
became ever more so.^^ 

In the first years of his activity as a reformer he was, 
since he thought of the calling as primarily of the flesh, 
dominated by an attitude closely related, in so far as the 
form of world ^^ activity was concerned, to the Pauline 
eschatological indifference as expressed in i Cor. vii.^' 
One may attain salvation in any walk of life; on the 
short pilgrimage of life there is no use in laying weight 
on the form of occupation. The pursuit of material gain 
beyond personal needs must thus appear as a symptom 
of lack of grace, and since it can apparently only be 
attained at the expense of others, directly reprehen- 
sible.^® As he became increasingly involved in the affairs 
/ of the world, he came to value work in the world more 

(highly. But in the concrete calling an individual pursued 
he saw more and more a special command of God to 

Luther's Conception of the Calling 

fulfil these particular duties which the Divine Will had 
imposed upon him. And after the conflict with the 
Fanatics and the peasant disturbances, the objective 
historical order of things in which the individual has (v 
been placed by God becomes for Luther more and \\\ 
more a direct manifestation of divine will.^^ The 
stronger and stronger emphasis on the providential 
element, even in particular events of life, led more and 
more to a traditionalistic interpretation based on the 
idea of Providence. The individual should remain once -) 
and for all in the station and calling in which God had 
placed him, and should restrain his worldly activity 
within the limits imposed by his established station in 
life. While his economic traditionalism was originally 
the result of Pauline indifference, it later became that 
of a more and more intense belief in divine provi- 
dence,^^ which identified absolute obedience to God's 
will, 2^ with absolute acceptance of things as they were. 
Starting from this background, it was impossible for 
Luther to establish a new or in any way fundamental 
connection between worldly activity and religious 
principles .22 His acceptance of purity of doctrine as the 
one infallible criterion of the Church, which became 
more and more irrevocable after the struggles of the 
'twenties, was in itself sufficient to check the develop- 
ment of new points of view in ethical matters. 

Thus jo^J^^utheiLihe concept of the calling remained 
traditionalisticu-^^ His callmg is something which man'j 
has to accept as a divine ordinance, to which he must I 
adapt himself. This aspect outweighed the other idea V; 
which was also present, that work in the calling was a, 
or gather the, task set by God.^^ And in its further j 

8s 1 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

development, orthodox Lutheranism emphasized this 
aspect still more. Thus, for the time being, the only 
ethical result was negative; worldly duties were no 
longer subordinated to ascetic ones; obedience to 
authority and the acceptance of things as they were, 
were preached .^^ In this Lutheran form the idea of a 
calling had, as will be shown in our discussion of 
mediaeval religious ethics, to a considerable extent 
been anticipated by the German mystics. Especially 
in Tauler's equalization of the values of religious and 
worldly occupations, and the decline in valuation of 
the traditional forms of ascetic practices ^® on account 
of the decisive significance of the ecstatic-contemplative 
absorption of the divine spirit by the soul. To a certain 
extent Lutheranism means a step backward from the 
mystics, in so far as Luther, and still more his Church, 
had, as compared with the mystics, partly undermined 
the psychological foundations for a rational ethics. (The 
mystic attitude on this point is reminiscent partly of the 
Pietest and partly of the Quaker psychology of faith .2') 
That was precisely because he could not but suspect the 
tendency to ascetic self-discipline of leading to salvation 
by works, and hence he and his Church were forced to 
keep it more and more in the background. 

Thus the mere idea of the calling in the Lutheran 
sense is at best of questionable importance for the 
problems in which we are interested. This was all that 
was nieant to be determined here.^^ But this is not in 
the least to say that even the Lutheran form of the 
renewal of the religious life may not have had some 
practical significance for the objects of our investiga- 
tion ; quite the contrary. Only that significance evidently 

Luther's Conception of the Calling 

cannot be derived directly from the attitude of Luther 
and his Church to worldly activity, and is perhaps not 
altogether so easily grasped as the connection with 
other branches of Protestantism. It is thus well for us 

I; next to look into those forms in which a relation 
between practical life and a religious motivation can 

1 be more easily perceived than in Lutheranism. We 
have already called attention to the conspicuous part 
played by Calvinism and the Protestant sects in the 
history of capitalistic development. As Luther found 
a different spirit at work in Zwingli than in himself, 
so did his spiritual successors in Calvinism. And 
Catholicism has to the present day looked upon 
Calvinism as its real opponent. 

I Now that may be partly explained on purely political 
grounds. Although the Reformation is unthinkable 
without Luther's own personal religious development, 
and was spiritually long influenced by his personality, 
I without Calvinism his work could not have had per- 
manent concrete success. Nevertheless, the reason for 
this common repugnance of Catholics and Lutherans 
lies, at least partly, in the ethical peculiarities of 
Calvinism. A purely superficial glance shows that there 
is here quite a different relationship between the 
religious life and earthly activity than in either Catholi- 
cism or Lutheranism. Even in literature motivated 
purely by religious factors that is evident. Take for 
instance the end of the Divine Comedy y where the poet 
in Paradise stands speechless in his passive contempla- 
tion of the secrets of God, and compare it with the 
poem which has come to be called the Divine Comedy 
of Puritanism. Milton closes the last song of Paradise 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

Lost after describing the expulsion from paradise as 
follows: — 

"They, looking back, all the eastern side beheld 
Of paradise, so late their happy seat, 
Waved over by that flaming brand ; the gate 
With dreadful faces thronged and fiery arms. 
Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon: 
The world was all before them, there to choose 
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide." 

And only a little before Michael had said to Adam: 

. . . "Only add 
Deeds to thy knowledge answerable ; add faith ; 
Add virtue, patience, temperance; add love, 
By name to come called Charity, the soul 
Of all the rest : then wilt thou not be loth 
To leave this Paradise, but shall possess 
A Paradise within thee, happier far." 

One feels at once that this powerful expression of the 
Puritan's serious attention to this world, his acceptance 
of his life in the world as a task, could not possibly have 
come from the pen of a mediaeval writer. But it is 
just as uncongenial to Lutheranism, as expressed for 
instance in Luther's and Paul Gerhard's chorales. 
It is now our task to replace this vague feeling by a 
somewhat more precise logical formulation, and to 
investigate the fundamental basis of these differences. 
The appeal to national character is generally a mere 
confession of ignorance, and in this case it is entirely 
untenable. To ascribe a unified national character to 
the Englishmen of the seventeenth century would be 
simply to falsify history. Cavaliers and Roundheads did 

Luther^s Conception of the Calling 

ncct appeal to each other simply as two parties, but as 
radically distinct species of men, and whoever looks 
into the matter carefully must agree with them.^^ On 
the other hand, a difference of character between the 
English merchant adventurers and the old Hanseatic 
merchants is not to be found; nor can any other 
fundamental difference between the English and 
German characters at the end of the Middle Ages, 
which cannot easily be explained by the differences of 
their political history. ^° It was the power of religious 
influence, not alone, but more than anything else, 
which created the differences of which we are conscious 
to-day. 3^ 

We thus take as our starting-point in the investiga- 
tion of the jrelatkmship between the old PrptestanL. 
ethic and the spirit of capitalism the works of Calvin, 

nfTalvin jt^rn , and the nther Puritan SectS. But it is not 

to be understood that we expect to find any of the 
founders or representatives of these religious move- 
ments considering the promotion of what we have 
called the spirit of capitalism as in any sense the end of 
his life-work. We cannot well maintain that the pursuit 
of worldly goods, conceived as an end in itself, was to 
any of them of positive ethical value. Once and for all 
it must be remembered that programmes of ethical 
reform never were at the centre of interest for any of 
the religious reformers (among whom, for our purposes, 
we must include men like Menno, George Fox, and 
Wesley). They were not the founders of societies for 
ethical culture nor the proponents of humanitarian 
projects for social reform or cultural ideals. The salva- 
tion of the soul and that alone was the centre of their 

' H 89 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capii '^a 

j life and work «^ Their ethical ideals and the pracoft'al 
( results of their doctrines were all based on that alone, 
^ and were the consequences of purely religious motives. 
We shall thus have to admit that the cultural conse- 
quences of the Reformation were to a great extent, 
perhaps in the particular aspects with which we are- 
dealing predominantly, unforeseen and even unwished- 
for results of the labours of the reformers. They were 
often far removed from or even in contradiction to all 
t^t they themselves thought to attain. 
^1 The following study may thus perhaps in a modest 
/way form a contribution to the understanding of the 
manner in which ideas become effective forces in 
history. In order, however, to avoid any misunder- 
standing of the sense in which any such effectiveness 
of purely ideal motives is claimed at all, I may perhaps 
be permitted a few remarks in conclusion to this intro- 
ductory discussion. 

In such a study, it may at once be definitely stated, 
no attempt is made to evaluate the ideas of the Reforma- 
tion in any sense, whether it concern their social or their 
religious worth. We have continually to deal with 
aspects of the Reformation which must appear to the 
, truly religious consciousness as incidental and even 
)/^ /■ superficial. For we are merely attempting to clarify the 
/ part which religi^ous forces have played in forming the 
I developing web of our specifically worldly modern 
\ culture, in the complex interaction of innumerable 
\ different historical factors. We are thus inquiring only 
to what extent certain characteristic features of this 
culture can be imputed to the influence of the Reforma- 
tion. At the same time we must free ourselves from the 

Luther* s Conception of the Calling 

idea that it is possible to deduce the Reformation, as 
a historically necessary result, from certain economic 
changes. Countless historical circumstances, which 
cannot be reduced to any economic law, and are not 
susceptible of economic explanation of any sort, 
especially purely political processes, had to concur in 
order that the newly created Churches should survive 
at all. 

On the other hand, however, we have no intention 
whatever of mauitaining such a foolish and doctrinaire 
thesis^^ as that'^the spirit of capitalism (in the pro- 
visional sense of the term explained above) could only 
have arisen as ^e result of certain effects of the Refor- 
mation, or even that capitalism as an economic system 
is a creation of the Reformation. In itself, the fact that 
certain important forms of capitalistic business organi- 
zation are known to be considerably older than the 
Reformation is a sufficient refutation of such a claim. 
On the contrary, we only wish to ascertain whether and 
to what extent religious forces have taken part in the 
qualitative formation and the quantitative expansion of 
that spirit over the world. Furthermore, what concrete 
aspects of our capitalistic culture can be traced to them. 
In view of the tremendous confusion of interdependent 
influences between the material basis, the forms of 
social and political organization, and the ideas current 
in the time of the Reformation, we can only proceed 
by investigating whether and at what points certain 
correlations between forms of religious belief and 
practical ethics can be worked out. At the same time 
we shall as far as possible clarify the manner and the 
general direction in which, by virtue of those relation- 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

ships, the religious movements have influenced the 
development of material culture. Only when thisKas 
been determined with reasonable accuracy can the 
attempt be made to estimate to what extent the his- 
torical development of modern culture can be attributed 
to those religious forces and to what extent to others. 







In history there have been four principal fornas_of 
ascetic Protestantism (in the sense of word here used) : 
(i) Calvinism in the form which it assumed in the • 
main area of its influence in Western Europe, especially 
in the seventeenth century ; (2) Pietism ; (3) Methodism ; 
(4) the sects growing out of the Baptist movement.^ 
None of these movements was completely separated 
from the others, and even the distinction from the 
non-ascetic Churches of the Reformation is never 
perfectly clear. Methodism. whic h_first ar nsp in the 
middle of the eightfifirillLceiituiY within the Established 

Church of England, was n ot^in the minds of its 
founders, intended to form a new^^Hnlr^^^JÜLÖnly 
a new^waRening of the ascetic .spirit v^itWn_jhe^jold^_ 
OnT y in tEe"coiirse o Hts .develQpm£iit,..£Sfi£dallyJn its 
extension to Americav.didiLJbecome separate from the 

Anglican Church. 

Pietism first split off from the Calvinistic movement 
in England, and especially in Holland. It remained 
loosely connected with orthodoxy, shading off from it 
by imperceptible gradations, until at the end of the 
seventeenth century it was absorbed into Lutheranism 
under Spener's leadership. Though the dogmatic 
adjustment was not entirely satisfactory, it remained a 
movement within the Lutheran Church. Only the 
faction dominated by Zinzendorf, and affected by 
lingering Hussite and Calvinistic influences within the 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

Moravian brotherhood, was forced, like Methodism 
against its will, to form a peculiar sort of sect. Calvin ism 
and Baptism were at the beginning of thek deve lop- 
ment~^Kar ply opposed to each other . .But in the Baptism 
"tJf'fhe litter part of the seventeenth century they were 
in close contact. And even in the Independent sects of 
England and Holland at the beginning of the seven- 
teenth century the transition w^s not abrupt. As 
Pietism shows, the transition to Lutheranism is also 
gradual, and the same is true of Calvinism and the 
Anglican Church, though both in external character 
and in the spirit of its most logical adherents the latter 
is more closely related to Catholicism. It is true that 
both the mass of the adherents and especially the 
staunchest champions ofthat ascetic movement which, 
in the broadest sense of a highly ambiguous word, has 
been called Puritanism,^ did attack the foundations of 
Anglicanism; but even here the differences were only 
gradually worked out in the course of the struggle. 
Even if for the present we quite ignore the questions 
of government and organization which do not interest 
us here, the facts are just the same. The dogmatic 
differences, even the most important, such as those over 
the doctrines of predestination and justification, were 
combined in the most complex ways, and even at the 
beginning of the seventeenth century regularly, though 
not without exception, prevented the maintenance of 
unity in the Church. Above all, the types of moral 
conduct in which we are interested may be found in a 
similar manner among the adherents of the most various 
denominations, derived from any one of the four 
sources mentioned above, or a combination of several 


The Religious Foundations of Worldly Asceticism 

of them. We shall see that similar ethical maxims may 
be correlated with very different dogmatic foundations . 
Also the important literary tools for the saving of 
souls, above all the casuistic compendia of the various 
denominations, influenced each other in the course of 
time ; one finds great similarities in them, in spite of 
very great differences in actual conduct. 

It would almost seem as though we had best com- 
pletely ignore both the dogmatic foundations and the 
ethical theory and confine our attention to the moral 
practice so far as it can be determined. That, however, 
is not true. The various different dogmatic roots of 
ascetic morality did no doubt die out after terrible 
struggles. But the original connection with those 
dogmas has left behind important traces in the later 
undogmatic ethics ; moreover, only the knowledge of the 
original body of ideas can help us to understand the 
connection of that morality with the idea of the after- 
life which absolutely dominated the most spiritual 
men of that time. Without its power, overshadowing 
everything else, no moral awakening which seriously 
influenced practical life came into being in that period. 

We are naturally not concerned with the question of 
what was theoretically and officially taught in the 
ethical compendia of the time, however much practical 
significance this may have had through the influence 
of Church discipline, pastoral work, and preaching.^ 

^e are interested rather in something entirely different^ 
j he in fluence of those psychological sanctions which, 
origina ting in religious belief and the practice of re- 
ligion, gave a direction to practical conduct and held 
3ie individual to it. Now these sanctions were to a larg^ 


Tlie Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

extent derived from the peculiarities of the rehgious 
ideas behind them. The men of that day were occupied 
with abstract dogmas to an extent which itself can only 
be understood when we perceive the connection of 
these dogmas with practical religious interests. A few 
observations on dogma, ^ which will seem to the non- 
theological reader as dull as they will hasty and super- 
ficial to the theologian, are indispensable. We can of 
Icourse only proceed by presenting these religious 
[ideas in the artificial simplicity of ideal types, as they 
[I could at best but seldom be found in history. For just 
because of the impossibility of drawing sharp boun- 
daries in historical reality we can only hope to under- 
stand their specific importance from an investigation of 
them in their most consistent and logical forms. 

A. Calvinism 

Now Calvinism^ was the faith ^ over which the 
i great political and cultural struggles of the sixteenth 
I and seventeenth centuries were fought in the most 
- highly developed countries, the Netherlands, England, 
and France. To it we shall hence turn first. At that 
time, and in general even to-day, the doctrine of 
predestination was considered its most characteristic 
dogma. It is true that there has been controversy as to 
whether it is the most essential dogma of the Reformed 
Church or only an appendage. Judgments of the im- 
portance of a historical phenomenon may be judgments 
of value or faith, namely, when they refer to what is 
alone interesting, or alone in the long run valuable 
in it. Or, on the other hand, they may refer to its 


The Religious Foundations of Worldly Asceticism 

influence on ether historical processes as a causal 
factor. Then we are concerned with judgments of 
historical imputation. If now we start, as we must 
do here, from the latter standpoint and inquire into 
the significance which is to be attributed to that 
dogma by virtue of its cultural and historical con- 
sequences, it must certainly be rated very highly.' The 
movement which Oldenbarneveld led was shattered 
by it. The schism in the English Church became 
irrevocable under James I after the Crown and the 
Puritans came to differ dogmatically over just this 
doctrine. Again and again it was looked upon as the 
real element of political danger in Calvinism and 
attacked as such by those in authority.^ The great 
synods of the seventeenth century, above all those of 
Dordrecht and Westminster, besides numerous smaller 
ones, made its elevation to canonical authority the 
central purpose of their work. It served as a rallying- 
point to countless heroes of the Church militant, and in 
both the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries it 
caused schisms in the Church and formed the battle- 
cry of great new awakenings. We cannot pass it by, 
and since to-day it can no longer be assumed as known 
to all educated men, we can best learn its content from 
the authoritative words of the Westminster Confession 
of 1647, which in this regard is simply repeated by 
both Independent and Baptist creeds. 

"Chapter IX (of Free Will), No. 3. Man, by his 
fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability 
of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation. 
So that a natural man, being altogether averse from 
that Good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself 


' "Chapter III (of God's Eternal Decree), No. 3. 

By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His 

I glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto ever- 

VJasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death. 

**No. 5. Those of mankind that are predestinated unto 

life, God before the foundation of the world was laid, 

according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and 

the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, hath 

chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of His mere 

free grace and love, without any foresight of faith or 

good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any 

other thing in the creature as conditions, or causes 

moving Him thereunto, and all to the praise of His 

glorious grace. 

''No. 7. The rest of mankind God was pleased, 
according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, 
whereby He extendeth, or with-holdeth mercy, as He 
pleaseth, for the glory of His sovereign power over His 
creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonour 
and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious 

' "Chapter X (of Effectual Calling), No. i. All those 
whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only. 
He is pleased in His appointed and accepted time effec- 
tually to call, by His word and spirit (out of that state 
of sin and death, in which they are by nature) . . . 
taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them 
an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by His 
almighty power determining them to that which is 
good. . . i 

The Religious Foundations of Worldly Asceticism 

' ' Chapter V (of Providence) , No . 6 . As for those wicked 
and ungodly men, whom God as a righteous judge, for 
former sins doth blind and harden, from them He not 
only with-holdeth His grace, whereby they might have 
been enlightened in their understandings and wrought 
upon in their hearts, but sometimes also withdraweth 
the gifts which they had and exposeth them to such 
objects as their corruption makes occasion of sin : and 
withal, gives them over to their own lusts, the tempta- 
tions of the world, and the power of Satan: whereby it 
comes to pass that they harden themselves, even under 
those means, which God useth for the softening of 

"Though_l_niay^ be sent to Hell for it, such 4 God 
all never command my respect", was Milton's well- 

lown opinion of the doctrine. ^^ But we are here 
concerned not with the evaluation, b ut the his torical 
significance of the do gma. We can on ly JbrieflV- sketch 
the question of how the do^rine originated and how it 
^fitted into the framework of Calvinist ic theology. 

Two paths leading to it were possible. The pheno- 
menonof the religious sense jof grace is combined ^^Jn. 
the mostacti ye and passionate of those great w orship- 
^ers_w hich Christianity has produced again an d jgain 
since Augustine, with the f eeling of certainty that that 
grace is the sole product of an o bjective powe r, and not 
in the least to be^ ttributed to personal wo rthTThe 
powerful feeling of light-hearted assurance, in which 
the tremendous pressure of their sense of sin is released, 
apparently breaks over them with elemental force and 
destroys every possibility of the belief that this over- 
powering gift of grace could owe anything to their own 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

/co-operation or could be connected with achievements 
/or quahties of their own faith and will. At the time of 
I Luther's greatest religious creativeness, when he was 
/ capable of writing his Freiheit eines Christenmenschen, 
I God's secret decree was also to him most definitely 
I the sole and ultimate source of his state of religious 
V-grace.^^ Even later he did not formally abandon it. 
But not only did the idea not assume a central position 
for him, but it receded more and more into the back- 
ground, the more his position as responsible head 
of his Church forced him into practical politics. 
Melancthon quite deliberately avoided adopting the 
dark and dangerous teaching in the Augsburg 
Confession, and for the Church fathers of Lutheranism 
it was an article of faith that grace was revocable 
(amissibilis) , and could be won again by penitent 
humility and faithful trust in the word of God and in 
the sacraments. 
f With Calvin the process was just the opposite; the 
' significance of the doctrine for him increased,^- per- 
ceptibly in the course of his polemical controversies 
with theological opponents. It is not fully developed 
until the third edition of his Institutes, and only gained 
""its position of central prominence after his death in 
the great struggles which the Synods of Dordrecht and 
Westminster sought to put an end to. With Calvin the 
decretum horribile is derived not, as with Luther, from 
religious experience, but from the logical necessity of 
his thought; therefore its importance increases with 
every increase in the logical consistency of that religious 
Ir thought. The interest of it is solely in God, not in man ; 
God does not exist for men, but men for the sake of 



The Religious Foundations of Worldly Asceticism 

\God.^^i/All creation, including of course the fact, as 
irUhdoubtedly was for Calvin, that only a small pro-i 
portion of men are chosen for eternal grace, can have i/ 
any meaning only as means to the glory and majesty; 
3f God. To apply earthly standards of justice to His, 
sovereign decrees is meaningless and an insult to His 
Majesty,^* since He and He alone is free, i.e. is subject 
to no law. His decrees can only be understood by or 
even known to us in so far as it has been His pleasure to 
reveal them. We can only hold to these fragments of 
eternal truth. Everything else, including the meaning 
of our individual destiny, is hidden in dark mystery 
which it would be both impossible to pierce and pre- 
sumptuous to question. 

For the damned to complain of their lot would be., 
much the same as for animals to bemoan the fact they 
were not born as men. For everything of the flesh i^ 
separated from God by an unbridgeable gulf and 
deserves of Him only eternal death, in so far as He 
has not decreed otherwise for the glorification of His 
Majesty jjWe know only that a part of humanity is saved, 
the rest damned. To assume that human merit or guilt 
play a part in determining this destiny would be to 
think of God's absolutely free decrees, which have been 
settled from eternity, as subject to change by human 
influence, an impossible contradiction. The Father in 
heaven of the New Testament, so human and under- 
standing, who rejoices over the repentance of a sinner 
as a woman over the lost piece of silver she has found, 
is gone. His place has been taken by a transcendental 
being, beyond the reach of human understanding, who 
with His quite incomprehensible decrees has decided 



The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

the fate of every individual and regulated the tiniest .^^< 

details of the cosmos from eternity .^^ God's grace is, "^ 
-since His decrees cannot change, as impossible for those ^1 
to whom He has granted it to lose as it is unattainable , ri 
for those to whom He has denied it. ^ 

In its extreme inhumanity this doctrine must above 
all have had one consequence for the life of a generation 
which surrendered to its magnificent consistency. That 
was a feeling of unprecedented inner loneliness of the 
single individual. ^^ In what was for the man of the age 
of the Reformation the most important thing in life, 
his eternal salvation, he was forced to follow his path 
alone to meet a destiny which had been decreed for him 
from eternity. No one could help him. No priest, for 
the chosen one can understand the word of God only 
in his own heart. No sacraments, for though the sacra- 
ments had been ordained by God for the increase of 
His glory, and must hence be scrupulously observed, 
they are not a means to the attainment of grace, but 
only the subjective externa subsidia of faith. No Church, 
for though it was held that extra ecclesiam nulla 
salus in the sense that whoever kept away from the 
true Church could never belong to God's chosen 
band,^'^ nevertheless the membership of the external 
Church included the doomed. They should belong to 
it and be subjected to its discipline, not in order thus 
to attain salvation, that is impossible, but because, for 
the glory of God, they too must be forced to obey His 
commandments. Finally, even no God. For even 
Christ had died only for the elect ,^^ for whose benefit 
God had decreed His martyrdom from eternity. This, 
the complete elimination of salvation through the 

The Religious Foundations of Worldly Asceticism 

Church and the sacraments (which was in Lutheranism 
by~ no" means developed to its final conclusions), was 
what formed the absolutely decisive difference from \\ 

That great historic process in the development of 
religions, the elimination of magic from the world^^ 
which had begun with the old Hebrew prophets and, 
in conjunction with Hellenistic scientific thought, had 
repudiated all magical means to salvation as superstition 
and sin, came here to its logical conclusion. The genuine 
Puritan even rejected all signs of religious ceremony at 
the grave and buried his nearest and dearest without 
song or ritual in order that no superstition, no trust in 
the effects of magical and sacramental forces on 
salvation, should creep in.^^ 

There was not only no magical means of attaining 
the grace of God for those to whom God had decided 
to deny it, but no means whatever. Combined with the 
harsh doctrines of the absolute transcendentality of God 
and the corruption of everything pertaining to the flesh, 
this inner isolation of th^Jndividual contains, on the 
one hand, the reason for [the entirely negative attitude^ 
of Pu ritanism, . tQ_, all the sensuous and emotional» 
elements in culture and in religion, because they are 
of no use toward salvation and promote sentimental 
illusions and idolatrous superstitions. (Thus it provides 
a basis for a fundamental antagonism to sensuous 
culture of all kinds. ^^ On the other hand, it forms one 
of the roots of that disillusioned and pessimistically 
inclined individualism^^ which can even to-day be 
identiHed^ih'the national characters and the institutions 
of the peoples with a Puritan past, in such a striking 



The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

contrast to the quite different spectacles through which 
the EnHghtenment later looked upon men.^^ We can 
clearly identify the traces of the influence of the 
doctrine of predestination in the elementary forms of 
conduct and attitude toward life in the era with which 
we are concerned, even where its authority as a dogma 
was on the decline. It was in fact only the most extreme 
form of that exclusive trust in God in which we are 
here interested. It comes out for instance in the 
strikingly frequent repetition, especially in the English 
Puritan literature, of warnings against any trust in 
the aid of friendship of men .2'* Even the amiable 
Baxter counsels deep distrust of even one's closest 
friend, and Bailey directly exhorts to trust no one 
and to say nothing compromising to anyone. Only 
God should be your confidant .^^ In striking con- 
trast to Lutheranism, this attitude toward life was 
also connected with the quiet disappearance of the 
private confession, of which Calvin was suspicious only 
on account of its possible sacramental misinterpreta- 
tion, from all the regions of fully developed Calvinism. 
That was an occurrence of the greatest importance. In 
the first place it is a symptom of the type of influence 
this religion exercised. Further, however, it was a 
psychological stimulus to the development of their 
ethical attitude. The means to a periodical discharge of 
the emotional sense of sin ^^ was done away with. 

Of the consequences for the ethical conduct of 
everyday life we speak later. But for the general 
religious situation of a man the consequences are 
evident. In spite of the necessity of membership in the 
true Church ^'^ for salvation, the Calvinist's intercourse 
1 06 


The Religious Foundations of Worldly Asceticism 

with his God was carried on in deep spiritual isolation. 
To see the specific results ^^ of this peculiar atmosphere, 
it is only necessary to read Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress,^^ 
by far the most widely read book of the whole Puritan 
literature. In the description of Christian's attitude after 
he had realized that he was living in thft City of Destruc- 
tion and he had received the call to take .up his pilgrim- 
age to the celestial city, wife and childreh cling to him, 
but stopping his ears with his fingers and crying, "life, 
eternal life", he staggers forth across the fields. No 
refinement could surpass the naive feeling of the tinker 
who, writing in his prison cell, earned the applause of 
a believing world, in expressing the emotions of the 
faithful Puritan, thinking only of his own salvation. It 
is expressed in the unctuous conversations which he 
holds with fellow-seekers on the way, in a manner 
somewhat reminiscent of Gottfried Keller's Gerechte 
Kammacher. Only when he himself is safe does it 
occur to him that it would be nice to have his family 
with him. It is the same anxious fear of death and the 
beyond which we feel so vividly in Alfonso of Liguori, 
as Döllinger has described him to us. It is worlds 
removed from that spirit of proud worldliness which 
Machiavelli expresses in relating the fame of those 
Florentine citizens who, in their struggle against the 
Pope and his excommunication, had held "Love of 
their native city higher than the fear for the salvation 
of their souls". And it is of course even farther from 
the feelings which Richard Wagner puts into the 
mouth of Siegmund before his fatal combat, "Grüsse 
mir Wotan, grüsse mir Wallhall — Doch von Wallhall's 
spröden Wonnen sprich du wahrlich mir nicht". But 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

the effects of this fear on Bunyan and Liguori are 
characteristically different. The same fear which drives 
the latter to every conceivable self-humiliation spurs 
the former on to a restless and systematic struggle 
with life. Whence comes this difference? 
/ It seems at ßrst a mystery how the undoubted 
/ superiority of Calvinism in social organization can be 
/ connected witn this tendency to tear the individual 
I away from the closed ties with which he is bound to 
\this world. ^^. But, however strange it may seem, it 
Ifollows fron\ the peculiar form which the Christian 
brotherly love was forced to take under the pressure of 
the inner isolation of the individual through the 
Calvinistic faith. In the first place it follows dogmatic- 
ally. ^^ The world exists to serve the glorification of God 
and for chat purpose alone. The elected Christian is in 
the world o^Jy to increase this glory of God by fulfilling 
His commandments to the best of his ability. But God 
requires social achievement of the Christian because 
j He wills that social life shall be organized according to 
I His commandments, in accordance with that purpose. 
The social ^2 activity of the Christian in the world is 
solely activity in majorem gloriam Dei. This character is 
hence shared by labour in a calling which serves the 
mundane life of the community. Even in Luther we 
found specialized labour in callings justified in terms 
of brotherly love. But what for him remained an un- 
certain, purely intellectual suggestion became for the 
Calvinists a characteristic element in their ethical 
system. Brotherly love, since it may only be practised 
for the glory of God^^ and not in the service of the 
flesh, ^^ is expressed in the first place in the fulfilment 

The Religious Fowtdatiom of Worldly Asceticism 

of the daily tasks given by the lex naturce\ and in the 
process this fulfilment assumes a peculiarly objective 
and impersonal character, that_o f service in th e jnterest _ 

^ of the rational organizatio n of our social environm ej:^' 
For the wonderfully purposeful organizatior.-^ and 
arrangement of this cosmos is, according botj-'i to the 
revelation of the Bible and to natural intuitior^» evidently 
designed by God to serve the utility of the V"^^'^ race. 

- This makes labour in the service of imperso/?al social 

I usefulness appear to promote the glory of <^»^od and 
hence to be willed by Him. The complete elimifiation 
of the theodicy problem and of all those questions about 
the meaning of the world and of life, which have tof*^ 
tured others, was as self-evident to the Puritan as, for 
quite diflferent reasons, to the Jew, and even in a certain 
sense to all the non-mystical types of Christian religion. 
^To thi s-£CQ nomy of forces Ca lvinism added another 
tendency which worked in the same direction. The 
conflict betw€€ft- ^he J ftdi^ddual and the ethic (in 
Sören Kierkegaard's sense) didJiot^exist fqr^jyinisjn, 
although it placed the individual entirely on his own 
responsibility in religious matters . This is not the 
place to analyse the reasons for this fact, or its signifi- 
cance for the political and economic rationalism of 
Calvinism. The source of the utilitarian character of 
fcalvinistic ethics lies here, and important peculiarities 
[of the Calvinistic idea of the calling were derived from 
; the same source as well.^^ But for the moment we must 
1 return to the special consideration of the doctrine of 
Wedestination . 

f For us the decisive problem is : How was this doctrine 
borne^^ in an age to which the after-life was not only 



The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

more important, but in many ways also more certain, 
[than all the interests of life in this world ?^^ The 
question, Am I one of the elect? must sooner or later 
ha«.ve arisen for every believer and have forced all other 
interc^^ßts into the background. And how j:an I be sure 
of this :?^tate of grace P^^ For Calvin himself this was 
not a proLS>|em. He felt himself to be a chosen agent of 
the Lord, " -id was certain of his own salvation. Accord- 
ingly, t^)', the question of how the individual can be 
certain :of his own election, he has at bottom only the 
answe'r that we should be content with the knowledge 
that '^Jod has chosen and depend further only on that 
'implicit trust in Christ which is the result of true faith. 
He rejects in principle the assumption that one can 
learn from the conduct of others whether they are 
chosen or damned. It is an unjustifiable attempt to 
;force God's secrets. Tlie._elect differ externally in 
this^iife in no way from the damned^® ; and even 
all the subjective experiences of the chosen are, as 
liidihria Spiritus sancti, possible for the damned Y^ith. 
the_single_exception of^hat finaliter expectant, trusting 
faith. The elecTlKus are and remain God's invisible 

Quite naturally this attitude was impossible for his 
followers as early as Beza, and, above all, for the broad 
mass of ordinary men. For them the certitudo salutis in 
the sense of the recognizability of the state of grace 
necessarily became of absolutely dominant impor- 
tance.*^ So, wherever the doctrine of predestination was 
held, the question could not be suppressed whether 
there were any infallible criteria by which membership 
in the electi could be known. Not only has this question 

The Religious Foundations of' Worldly Asceticism 

continually had a central importance in the develop- 
ment of the Pietism which first arose on the basis of 
the Reformed Church ; it has in fact in a certain sense 
at times been fundamental to it. But when we con- 
sider the great political and social importance of the 
Reformed doctrine and practice of the Communion, 
we shall see how great a part was played during 
the whole seventeenth century outside of Pietism by 
the possibility of ascertaining the state of grace 
of~ the individual. On it depended, for instance, his 
admission to Communion, i.e. to the central religious 
ceremony which determined the social standing of the 

It was impossible, at least so far as the question of a 
man's own state of grace arose, to be satisfied ^^ with 
Calvin's trust in the testimony of the expectant faith 
resulting from grace, even though the orthodox doctrine 
had never formally abandoned that criterion. '^^ Above 
all, practical pastoral work, which had immediately to 
deal with afl the suffering caused by the doctrine, 
could not be satisfied. It met these difficulties in various 
ways.*^ So far as predestination was not reinterpreted, 
toned down, or fundamentally abandoned,** two prin- 
cipal, mutually connected, types of pastoral advice 
appear. On the one hand it is held to be an absolute j/ 
duty to consider oneself chosen, and to combat all 
doubts as temptations of the devil, *^ since lack of self- 
confidence is the result of insufficient faith, hence of 
imperfect grace. The exhortation of the apostle to 
make fast one's own call is here interpreted as a duty 
to attain certainty of one's own election and justifica- 
tion in the daily struggle of life. In the place of the 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

humble sinners to whom Luther promises grace if 
they trust themselves to God in penitent faith are bred 
those self-confident saints ^^ whom we can rediscover 
in the hard Puritan merchants of the heroic age of 
capitalism and in isolated instances down to the present. 
On the other hand, in j^ldei ^o attain that self-con- 
fidence intense worldly^activity is recommended as tue 
most suit able means. ^^ It and it alone dispersesTeligious 
I doubts and gives the certainty of grace. 

That worldly activity should be considered capable 
of this achievement, that it could, so to speak, be 
co nsidered the most suitable means of counte racting 
feelings of religio us anxiety, finds its explanation m 
the fundamental peculiarities of religious feeling in the 
Reformed Church, which come most clearly to light 
in its differences from Lutheranism in the doctrine of 
justification by faith. These differences are analysed so 
subtly and with such objectivity and avoidance of value- 
judgments in Schneckenburger's excellent lectures, ^^ 
that the following brief observations can for the most 
part simply rest upon his discussion. 
^ The highest religious experience which the Lutheran 
faith strives to attain, especially as it developed in the 
course of the seventeenth century, is the unio mystica 
\with the deity. ^^ As the name itself, which is unknown 
to the Reformed faith in this form, suggests, it is a 
feeling of actual absorption in the deity, that of a real 
entrance of the divine into the soul of the believer. It 
is qualitatively similar to the aim of the contemplation 
of the German mystics and is characterized by its 
passive search for the fulfilment of the yearning' for 
rest in God. 


The Religious Foundations of Worldly Asceticism 

Now the history of philosophy shows that rehgious 
behef which is primarily mystical may very well be 
compatible with a pronounced sense of reality in the 
field of empirical fact ; it may even support it directly 
i on account of the repudiation of dialectic doctrines. 
Furthermore, mysticism may indirectly even further 
the interests of rational conduct. Nevertheless, the 
positive valuation of external activity is lacking in its 
relation to the world. In addition to this, Lutheranism 
combines the unio mystica with that deep feeling of 
sin-stained unworthiness which is essential to preserve 
the poenitentia qiiotidiana of the faithful Lutheran, 
thereby maintaining the humility and simplicity in- 
dispensable for the forgiveness of sins. The typical 
religion of the Reformed Church, on the other hand, 
has from the beginning repudiated both this purely 
inward emotional piety of Lutheranism and the 
Quietist escape from everything of Pascal. A real'pene- 
tration of the human soul by the divine was made 
impossible by the absolute transcendentality of God 
compared to the flesh : finitum non est capax infiniti. 
The community of the elect with their God could only 
take place and be perceptible to them in that God ^ 
worked (operatur) through them and that they were u/ 
conscious of it. That is, their action originated from 
the faith caused by God's grace, and this faith in turn 
justified itself by the quality of that action. Deep-lying 
differences of the most important conditions of salva- 
tion^o which apply to the classification of all practical 
religious activity appear here. The religious believer,' 
can make himself sur^ of his state of grace either in 
that he feels himself to be the vessel of the Holy Spirit 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

or the tool of the divine will. In the former case his 
religious life tends to mysticism and emotionalism, in 
the latter to ascetic action; Luther stood close to the 
former type, Calvinism belonged definitely to the 
latter. The Calvinist also wanted to be saved sola fide, 
^nt since Calvin viewed all pure feelings and emotions, 
no matter how exalted they might seem to be, with 
suspicion ,^1 faith had to be proved by its objective 
results in order to provide a firm foundation for the 
certitudo salutis. It must be a fides efficax,^^ the call to 
salvation an effectual calling (expression used in Savoy 

If we now ask further, by what fruits the Calvinist 
/thought himself able to identify true faith? the answer 
[is: by a type of Christian conduct which served to 
j increase the glory of God . Just what does so serve is to 
be seen in his own will as revealed either directly 
through the Bible or indirectly through the purposeful 
order of the world which he has created {lex natura). ^^ 
Especially by comparing the condition of one's own 
soul with that of the elect, for instance the patriarchs, 
according to the Bible, could the state of one's own 
grace be known .^* Only one of the elect really has the 
fides efficaXy^^ only he is able by virtue of his rebirth 
(regeneratio) and the resulting sanctification {sanctifi- 
catio) of his whole life, to augment the glory of God by 
real, and not merely apparent, good works. It was 
through the consciousness that his conduct, at least in 
its fundamental character and constant ideal (propositum 
oboedientice) y rested on a power ^^ within himself 
working for the glory of God ; that it is not only willed 
of God but rather done by God'^^ that he attained the 

The Religions Foundations of Worldly Asceticism 

highest good towards which this reHgion strove, the 
certainty of salvation.^® That it was attainable was 
proved by 2 Cor. xiii. 5.^® Thus, however useless goo^ 
works might be as a means of attaining salvation, for 
even the elect remain beings of the flesh, and everything 
they do falls infinitely short of divine standards, 
nevertheless, they are indispensable as a sign of elec- 
tion.^^ They are the technical means, not of purchasing , 
salvation, but of getting rid of the fear of damnationj 
In this sense they are occasionally referred to as directly 
necessary for salvation^^ or the possessio salutis is made 
conditional on them.^^ 

Injpra^ice this means that God helps those who 
help th emselves .^^ Thus the Calvinist, as it is some- 
times put, himself creates®* his own salvation, or, as 
Nvould be more correct, the conviction of it. But this 
creation cannot, as in Catholicism, consist in a gradual 
accumulation of individual good works to one's credit, 
but rather in a systematic self-control which at every 
moment stands before the inexorable alternative, chosen 
or damned. This brings us to a very important point 
in our investigation. 

It is common knowledge that Lutherans have again 
and again accused this line of thought, which was 
worked out in the Reformed Churches and sects with 
increasing clarity,®^ of reversion to the doctrine of 
salvation by works.®® And however justified the. protest 
of the accused against identification of their dogmatic 
position with the Catholic doctrine, this accusation has 
surely been made with reason if by it is meant the 
practical consequences for the everyday life of the 
average Christian of the Reformed Church.®^ For a 



The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

more intensive form of the religious valuation of moral 
action than that to which Calvinism led its adherents 
has perhaps never existed. But what is important for 
the practical significance of this sort of salvation by 
works must be sought in a knowledge of the particular 
qualities which characterized their type of ethical con- 
duct and distinguished it from the everyday life of an 
average Christian of the Middle Ages. The difference 
, .Pf may well be formulated as follows : the normal mediaeval 
v/ Catholic layman^® lived ethically, so to speak, from 
^ pJjiand to mouth. In the first place he conscientiously 
^ ^ ^fulfilled his traditional duties. But beyond that mini- 
'/U^mum his good works did not necessarily form a con- 
^'m^nected, or at least not a rationalized, system of life, 
0;] T)ut rather remained a succession of individual acts. 
•^'^' He could use them as occasion demanded, to atone for 
^ {3 particular sins, to better his chances for salvation, or, 
>^ toward the end of his life, as a sort of insurance 
premium. Of course the Catholic ethic was an ethic of 
intentions. But the concrete intentio of the single act 
/ determined its value. And the single good or bad 
/ action was credited to the doer determining his tem- 
L^ poral and eternal fate. Quite realistically the Church 
recognized that man was not an absolutely clearly defined 
unity to be judged one way or the other, but that his 
moral life was normally subject to conflicting motives 
and his action contradictory. Of course, it required as an 
ideal a change of life in principle. But it weakened just 
this requirement (for the average) by one of its most 
important means of power and education, the sacrament 
of absolution, the function of which was connected with 
the deepest roots of the peculiarly Catholic religion. 

The Religions Foundations of Worldly Asceticism 

~^j The rationalization of the world, the eHmination of 
Änagic as a means to salvation ,^^ the Catholics had not 
carried nearly so far as the Puritans (and before them 
the Jews) had done. To the -Catholic^^ the absolution of 
his Church was a compensation for his own imperfec- 
tion. The priest was a magician who performed the 
miracle of transubstantiation, and who held the key 
to eternal life in his hand. One could turn to him in 
grief and penitence. He dispensed atonement, hppe of 
grace, certainty of forgiveness, and thereby granted 
release from that tremendous tension to which the 
Calvinist was doomed by an inexorable fate, admitting 
of no mitigation. For him such friendly and human 
comforts did not exist. He could not hope to atone for 
hours of weakness or of thoughtlessness by increased 
good will at other times, as the Catholic or even the\ 
Lutheran could. The God of Calvinism demanded of 
his believers not single good works, but a life of good Ij 
works combined into a unified system.'^ There was no / 
place for the very human Catholic cycle of sin, repent-/ 
ance, atonement, release, followed by renewed _ sin .' 
Nor was there any balance of merit for a life as a whole 
which could be adjusted by temporal punishments or 
the Churches' means of grace. 

' The moral conduct of the average man was thus 
deprived of its planless and unsystematic character and 
subjected to a consistent method for conduct as a 
whole. It is no accident that the name of Methodists 
stuck to the participants in the last great revival of 
Puritan ideas in the eighteenth century just as the term 
Precisians, which has the same meaning, was applied 
to their spiritual ancestors in the seventeenth century. "^ 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

For only by a fundamental change in the whole meaning 
of life at every moment and in every action '^^ could the 
effects of grace transforming a man from the status 
naturce to the status gratice be proved. 

The life of the saint was directed solely toward a 
transcendental end, salvation. But precisely for that 
reason it was thoroughly rationalized in this world and 
dominated entirely by the aim to add to the glory of 
God on earth. Never has the precept omnia in majorem 
dei gloriam been taken with more bitter seriousness.'^ 
Only a life guided by constant thought could achieve 
conquest over the state of nature. Descartes 's cogito 
ergo sum was taken over by the contemporary Puritans 
with this ethical reinterpretation.'^ It was this rational- 
ization which gave the Reformed faith its peculiar 
ascetic tendency, and is the basis both of its relation- 
ship '^^ to and its conflict with Catholicism. For naturally 
similar things were not unknown to Catholicism. 

Without doubt Christian asceticism, both outwardly 
and in its inner meaning, contains many different 
things. But it has had a definitely rational character in 
its highest Occidental forms as early as the Middle 
Ages, and in several forms even in antiquity. The great 
historical significance of Western monasticism, as 
contrasted with that of the Orient, is based on this 
fact, not in all cases, but in its general type. In the 
rules of St. Benedict, still more with the monks of 
Cluny, again with the Cistercians, and most strongly 
the Jesuits, it has become emancipated from planless 
otherworldliness and irrational self-torture. It had 
developed a systematic method of rational conduct with 
the purpose of overcoming the status natura, to free 

The Religions Foundations of Worldly Asceticism 

man from the power of irrational impulses and his 
dependence on the world and on nature. It attempted 
to subject man to the supremacy of a purposeful will/' 
to bring his actions under constant self-control with 
a careful consideration of their ethical consequences. 
Thus it trained the monk, objectively, as a worker in 
the service of the kingdom of God, and thereby further, 
subjectively, assured the salvation of his soul. This 
active__sei£=control, which formed the end of the 
exercitia of St. Ignatius and of the rational monastic 
virtues everywhere,''^ was also the most important 
practic al ideaLü f Puritanism. "^^ In the deep contempt 
with which the cool reserve of its adherents is con- 
trasted, in the reports of the trials of its martyrs, with 
the undisciplined blustering of the noble prelates and 
officials ^^ can be seen that respect for quiet self-con- 
trol which still distinguishes the best type of English 
or American gentleman to-day .^^ To put it in our 
terms ^^ : , The Puritan, like every rational type of j 
asceticism, tried to enable a man to maintain and act '' 
upon his constant motives, especially those which it 
taught him itself, against the emotions. In this formal 
psychological sense of the term it tried to make him 
into a personality. Contrary to many popular ideas, the 
end of this asceticism was to be able to lead an alert, / 
intelligent life: Jthe most urgent task the destruction 6TN 
spontaneous, impulsive enjoyment, the most important / 
means was to bring order into the conduct of its ' 
adherents. All these important points are emphasized 
' , in the rules of Catholic monasticism as strongly ^^ as in 
the principles of conduct of the Calvinists.^* On this 
methodical control over the whole man rests the 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

enormous expansive power of both, especially the 
ability of Calvinism as against Lutheranism to defend 
the cause of Protestantism as the Church militant. 
^^n the other hand, the difference of the Calvinistic 
/from the mediaeval asceticism is evident. It consisted in 
I the disappearance of the consilia evaiigelica and the 
accompanying transformation of asceticism to activity 
within the world. Ims not as though Catholicism had 
TCsTficted the methodical life to monastic cells. This 
was by no means the case either in theory or in practice. 
On the contrary, it has already been pointed out that, 
in spite of the greater ethical moderation of Catholicism, 
an ethically unsystematic life did not satisfy the highest 
ideals which it had set up even for the life of the 
layman .^^ The tertiary order of St. Francis was, for 
instance, a powerful attempt in the direction of an 
ascetic penetration of everyday life, and, as we know, 
by no means the only one. But, in fact, works like the 
Nachfolge Christi show, through the manner in which 
their strong influence was exerted, that the way of life 
preached in them was felt to be something higher than 
the everyday morality which sufficed as a minimum, 
and that this latter was not measured by such standards 
as Puritanism demanded. Moreover, the practical use 
made of certain institutions of the Church, above all 
of indulgences inevitably counteracted the tendencies, 
toward systematic worldly asceticism. For that reason 
it was not felt at the time of the Reformation to be 
merely an unessential abuse, but one of the most 
fundamental evils of the Church. 

But the most important thing was the fact that the 
man who, par excellence , lived a rational life in the 
1 20 


The Keligioiis Foundations of Worldly Asceticism 

religious sense was, and remained, alone the monk, 
'hus asceticism, the more strongly it gripped an 
individual, simply served to drive him farther away 
ifrom everyday life, because the holiest task was defin- 
itely to surpass all worldly morality.®^ Luther, who was 
not in any sense fulfilling any law of development, but 
acting upon his quite personal experience, which was, 
though at first somewhat uncertain in its practical 
consequences, later pushed farther by the political 
situation, had repudiated that tendency, and Calvinism 
simply took this over from him.^' Sebastian FranckA 
struck the central characteristic of this type of religion 
when he saw the signifix^ncfi-DfLhe^ Reformation in the 
fact that now every_Chnstian had to be a monk all his-- 
lifg^ The drain of asceticism from every day worldly 
life ha d been stopped by a dam, and those passionately 
spiritual natures which had formerly supplied the 
highest type of monk were now forced to pursue their 

ascetic iHealg wjthin mnnHanp n^-nipptinn«^ 

But in the course of its development Calvinisi 
added something positive-to thisT— the- idea of- the \ 
necessity__o£4inmng— one's faitk-i n worldly activity.^ l 
Therein it gave the broader ' groups of religiously / 
inclined people a positive incentive to asceticism. By ^ 
founding its ethic in the doctrine of predestination, it 
substituted for the spiritual aristocracy of monks out-L_ 
side of and above the world the spiritual aristocracy of 
the predestined saints of God within the world .^^ It 
was an aristocracy which, with its character indelebilis, V^ 
was divided from the eternally damned remainder of 
humanity by a more impassable and in its invisibility 
niore terrifying gulf,^^ than separated the monk of the 

K 121 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

Middle Ages from the rest of the world about him, a 
gulf which penetrated all social relations with its sharp 
brutality. This consciousness of divine grace of the 
elect and holy was accompanied by an attitude toward 
the sin of one's neighbour, not of sympathetic under- 
standing based on consciousness of one's own weakness, 
but of hatred and contempt for him as an enemy of 
God bearing the .signs of eternal damnation. ^^ This 
sort of feeling was capable of such intensity that it 
sometimes resulted in the formation of sects. This was 
the case when, as in the Independent movement of the 
seventeenth century, the genuine Calvinist doctrine 
that the glory of God required the Church to bring the 
damned under the law, was outweighed by the con- 
viction that it was an insult to God if an unregenerate 
soul should be admitted to His house and partake in 
the sacraments, or even, as a minister, administer 
them.®^ Thus, as a consequence of the doctrine of 
proof, the Donatist idea of the Church appeared, as 
in the case of the Calvinistic Baptists. The full logical 
consequence of the demand for a pure Church, a 
community of those proved to be in a state of grace, 
was not often drawn by forming sects. Modifications 
in the constitution of the Church resulted from the 
attempt to separate regenerate from unregenerate 
Christians, those who were from those who were not 
prepared for the sacrament, to keep the government of 
the Church or some other privilege in the hands of the 
former, and only to ordain ministers of whom there 
was no question. ^^ 

The norm by which it could always measure itself, 
of which it was evidently in need, this asceticism 

The Religions Foundations of Worldly Asceticism 

naturally found in the Bible. It is important to note 
that the well-known bibliocracy of the Calvinists held 
the moral precepts of the Old Testament, since it 
was fully as authentically revealed, on the same level 
of esteem as those of the New. It was only neces- 
sary that they should not obviously be applicable only 
to the historical circumstances of the Hebrews, or have 
been specifically denied by Christ. For the believer, 
the law was an ideal though never quite attainable 
norm^* while Luther, on the other hand, originally 
had prized freedom from subjugation to the law as a 
divine privilege of the believer. ^^ The influence of the 
God-fearing but perfectly unemotional wisdom of the 
Hebrews, which is expressed in the books most read 
by the Puritans, the Proverbs and the Psalms, can be j 
felt in their whole attitude toward life. In particular, / 
its rational suppression of the mystical, in fact the 
whole emotional side of religion, has rightly been 
attributed by Sanford^® to the influence of the Old 
Testament. But this Old Testament rationalism was 
as such essentially of a small bourgeois, traditionalistic 
type, and was mixed not only with the powerful pathos 
of the prophets, but also with elements which encour- 
aged the development of a peculiarly emotional type of 
religion even in the Middle Ages.^' It was thus in the 
last analysis the peculiar, fundamentally ascetic, char- 
acter of Calvinism itself which made it select and 
assimilate those elements of Old Testament religion 
which suited it best. 

Now that systematization of ethical conduct which 
the asceticism of Calvinistic Protestantism had in 
common with the rational forms of life in the Catholic 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

orders is expressed quite superficially in the way in 
which the conscientious Puritan continually super- 
vised^^ his own state of grace. To be sure, the religious 
account-books in which sins, temptations, and progress 
made in grace were entered or tabulated were common 
to both the most enthusiastic Reformed circles^^ and 
some parts of modern Catholicism (especially in 
France), above aU under the influence of the Jesuits. 
But in Catholicism it served the purpose of complete- 
ness of the confession, or gave the directeur de Vame a 
basis for his authoritarian guidance of the Christian 
(mostly female). The Reformed Christian, however, 
felt his own pulse with its aid. It is mentioned by all 
the moralists and theologians, while Benjamin Frank- 
lin's tabulated statistical book-keeping on 'his progress 
in the different virtues is a classic example. ^^^ On the 
other hand, the old mediaeval (even ancient) idea of 
God's book-keeping is carried by Bunyan to the 
characteristically tasteless extreme of comparing the 
relation of a sinner to his God with that of customer 
and shopkeeper. One who has once got into debt may 
well, by the product of all his virtuous acts, succeed 
in paying off the accumulated interest but never the 
principal. ^^^ 

As he observed his own conduct, the later Puritan 
also observed that of God and saw His finger in all the 
details of life. And, contrary to the strict doctrine of 
Calvin, he always knew why God took this or that 
measure. Th e process of sanctifying life could thus 
almost take on the character of a business enterp rise. ^^^ 
A thoroughgoing Christianization of the whole of life 
was the consequence of this methodical quality of 

The Religious Foundations of Worldly Asceticism 

ethical conduct into which Calvinism as distinct from 
Lutheranism forced men. That this rationaj itx__a[as-^ 
decisive in its influence on practical life must always 
be borne in mind in order rightly to understand the 
influence of Calvinism. On the one hand we can see 
that it took this element to exercise such an influence 
at all. But other faiths as well necessarily had a similar 
influence when their ethical motives were the same in 
this decisive point, the doctrine of proof. 
K-So -iar we hav econsidered only Calyinismj^ and have 
thus flSRume d therfnrtn ne of nredestinatinn as the 

dogm atic ba ckground of the Puritan morality in the 
sense of melTiodically rationaliy H pthjc^WvynHiirt This 
could be done because the influence of thaTHogma in 
fact extended far beyond the single religious group 
which held in all respects strictly to Calvinistic prin- 
ciples, the Presbyterians. Not only the Independent 
Savoy Declaration of 1658, but also the Baptist Con- 
fession of Hanserd Knollyof 1689 contained it, and it 
had a place within Methodism. Although John Wesley, 
the great organizing genius of the movement, was a 
believer in the universality of Grace, one of the great 
agitators of the first generation of Methodists and their 
most consistent thinker, Whitefield, was an adherent of 
the doctrine. The same was true of the circle around 
Lady Huntingdon, which for a time had considerable 
influence. It was this doctrine in its magnificent con- 
sistency which, in the fateful epoch of the seventeenth 
century, upheld the belief of the militant defenders of 
the holy life that they were weapons in the hand of 
God, and executors of His providential will.^^^ More- 
over, it prevented a premature collapse into a purely 



The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

utilitarian doctrine of good works in this world which 
would never have been capable of motivating such 
tremendous sacrifices for non-rational ideal ends. 

The combination of faith in absolutely valid norms 
with absolute determinism and the complete trans- 
cendentality of God was in its way a product of great 
genius. At the same time it was, in principle, very 
much more modern than the milder doctrine, making 
greater concessions to the feelings which subjected 
God to the moral law. Above all, we shall see again 
and again how fundamental is the idea of proof for our 
problem, Since its practical significance as a psycho- 
logical basis for rational morality could be studied in 
such purity in the doctrine of predestination, it was 
best to start there with the doctrine in its most con- 
sistent form. But it forms a recurring framework for 
the connection between faith and conduct in the 
denominations to be studied below. Within the Pro- 
testant movement the consequences which it inevitably 
had for the ascetic tendencies of the conduct of its first 
adherents form in principle the strongest antithesis to 
the relative moral helplessness of Lutheranism. The 
Lutheran gratia amissibilis, which could always be 
regained through penitent contrition evidently, in itself, 
contained no sanction for what is for us the most 
important result of ascetic Protestantism, a systematic 
rational ordering of the moral life as a whole .1^* The 
Lutheran faith thus left the spontaneous vitality of 
impulsive action and naive emotion more nearly un- 
changed. The motive to constant self-control and thus 
to a deliberate regulation of one's own life, which the 
gloomy doctrine of Calvinism gave, was lacking. A 


The Religions Foundations of Worldly Asceticism 

religious genius like Luther could live in this atmo- 
sphere of openness and freedom without difficulty and, 
so long as his enthusiasm was powerful enough, without 
danger of falling back into the status naturalis. That 
1^ simple, sensitive, and peculiarly emotional form of 
piety, which is the ornament of many of the highest 
types of Lutherans, like their free and spontaneous 
morality, finds few parallels in genuine Puritanism, but 
many more in the mild Anglicanism of such men as 
Hooker, Chillingsworth, etc. But for the everyday 
Lutheran, even the able one, nothing was more certain 
than that he was only temporarily, as long as the single 
confession or sermon affected him, raised above the 
status naturalis. 

There was a great difference which was very striking 
to contemporaries between the moral standards of the 
courts of Reformed and of Lutheran princes, the latter 
often being degraded by drunkenness and vulgarity .^^^ 
Moreover, the helplessness of the Lutheran clergy, 
with their emphasis on faith alone, against the ascetic 
Baptist movement, is well known. The typical German 
quality often called good nature (Gemütlichkeit) or 
naturalness contrasts strongly', even in the facial 
expressions of people, with the effects of that thorough 
destruction of the spontaneity of the status naturalis 
in the Anglo-American atmosphere, which Germans 
are accustomed to judge unfavourably as narrowness, 
unfreeness, and inner constraint. But the differences of 
conduct, which are very striking, have clearly originated 
in the lesser degree of ascetic penetration of life in 
Lutheranism as distinguished from Calvinism. The 
antipathy of every spontaneous child of nature to 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

everything ascetic is expressed in those feeHngs. The 

fact is that Lutheranism, on account of its doctr ine of 

gracejä-cked a psychological sanction of systematic con- 

luct to compel the methodical rationalization of life. 

This sanction, which conditions the ascetic character 
of religion, could doubtless in itself have been furnished 
by various different religious motives, as we shall soon 
see. The Calvinistic doctrine of predestination was 
only one of several possibilities. But nevertheless we 
have become convinced that in its way it had not only 
a quite unique consistency, but that its psychological 
effect was extraordinarily powerful. ^^^ In comparison 
with it the non-Calvinistic ascetic movements, con- 
sidered purely from the view-point of the religious 
motivation of asceticism, form an attenuation of the 
inner consistency and power of Calvinism. 

But even in the actual historical development the 
situation was, for the most part, such that the Calvinistic 
form of asceticism was either imitated by the other 
ascetic movements or used as a source of inspiration or 
of CQmparison in the development of their divergent 
principles. Where, in spite of a different doctrinal basis, 
similar ascetic features have appeared, this has gener- 
ally been the result of Church organization. Of this we 
shall come to speak in another connection.^^^ 

B. Pietism 

Historically the doctrine of predestination is also the 
starting-point of the ascetic movement usually known 
as Pietism. In so far as the movement remained within 
the Reformed Church, it is almost impossible to draw 

The Religious Foundations of Worldly Asceticism 

the line between Pietistic and non-Pietistic Calvinists.^^® 
Almost all the leading representatives of Puritanism are 
sometimes classed among the Pietists. It is even quite 
legitimate to look upon the whole connection between 
predestination and the doctrine of proof, with its 
fundamental interest in the attainment of the certitudo 
salutis as discussed above, as in itself a Pietistic develop- 
ment of Calvin's original doctrines. The occurrence 
of ascetic revivals within the Reformed Church was, 
especially in Holland, regularly accompanied by a 
regeneration of the doctrine of predestination which 
had been temporarily forgotten or not strictly held to. 
Hence for England it is not customary to use the term 
Pietism at alL^^^ 

But even the Continental (Dutch and Lower Rhenish) 
Pietism in the Reformed Church was, at least funda- 
mentally, just as much a simple intensification of the 
Reformed asceticism as, for instance, the doctrines of 
Bailey. The emphasis was placed so strongly on the 
praxis pietatis that doctrinal orthodoxy was pushed into 
the background; at times, in fact, it seemed quite a 
matter of indifference. Those predestined for grace 
could occasionally be subject to dogmatic error as well 
as to other sins and experience showed that often those 
Christians who were quite uninstructed in the theology 
of the schools exhibited the fruits of faith most clearly, 
while on the other hand it became evident that mere 
knowledge of theology by no means guaranteed the 
proof of faith through conduct .^^^ 

Thus election could not be proved by theological 
learning at all.^^^ Hence Pietism, with a deep distrust 
of the Church of the theologians, ^i- to which — this is 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

characteristic of it — it still belonged officially, began to 
gather the adherents oi the praxis pietatis in conventicles 
removed from the world .^^^ It wished to make the in- 
visible Church of the elect visible on this earth. Without 
going so far as to form a separate sect, its members 
attempted to live, in this community, a life freed from 
all the temptations of the world and in all its details 
dictated by God's will, and thus to be made certain of 
their own rebirth by external signs manifested in their 
daily conduct. Thus the ecclesiola of the true converts — 
this was common to all genuinely Pietistic groups — 
wished, by means of intensified asceticism, to enjoy the 
blissfulness of community with God in this life. 

Now this latter tendency had something closely 
related to the Lutheran unio mystica, and very often 
led to a greater emphasis on the emotional side of 
religion than was acceptable to orthodox Calvinism. In 
fact this may, from our view-point, be said to be the 
decisive characteristic of the Pietism which developed 
within the Reformed Church. For this element of 
emotion, which was originally quite foreign to Calvin- 
ism, but on the other hand related to certain mediaeval 
forms of religion, led religion in practice to strive for 
the enjoyment of salvation in this world rather than to 
engage in the ascetic struggle for certainty about the 
future world. Moreover, the emotion was capable of 
such intensity, that religion took on a positively hys- 
terical character, resulting in the alternation which is 
familiar from examples without number and neuro- 
pathologically understandable, of half-conscious states 
of religious ecstasy with periods of nervous exhaustion, 
which were felt as abandonment by God. The effect 

The Religions Foundations of Worldly Asceticism 

was the direct opposite of the strict and temperate 
discipHne under which men were placed by the syste- 
matic life of hoHness of the Puritan. It meant a weaken- 
ing of the inhibitions which protected the rational 
personality of the Calvinist from his passions .^^* 
Similarly it was possible For the Calyinistic idea of the^ 
depravity oF the fleih, taken emotionally, for instance in 
the form of the so-called womT^feeling, to lead to a 
deadening oF enterprise in worldly activity .^^^ Even the 
doctrine of predestination could lead to fatalism if, 
contrary to the predominant tendencies of rational 
Calvinism, it were made the object of emotional con- 
templation .^^^ Finally, the desire to separate the elect 
from the world could, with a strong emotional intensity, 
lead to a sort of monastic community life of half- 
communistic character, as the history of Pietism, even 
within the Reformed Church, has shown again and 
again .^^^ 

But so long as this extreme effect, conditioned by 
this emphasis on emotion, did not appear, as long as 
Reformed Pietism strove to make sure of salvation 
within the everyday routine of life in a worldly calling, 
the practical effect of Pietistic principles was an even 
stricter ascetic control of conduct in the calling, which 
provided a still more solid religious basis for the ethic 
of the calling, than the mere worldly respectability of 
the normal Reformed Christian, which was felt by the 
superior Pietist to be a second-rate Christianity. The 
religious aristocracy of the elect, which developed in 
every form of Calvinistic asceticism, the more seriously 
it was taken, the more surely, was then organized, in 
Holland, on a voluntary basis in the form of conven- 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

tides within the Church. In EngHsh Puritanism, on the 
other hand, it led partly to a virtual differentiation 
between active and passive Christians within the 
Church organization, and partly, as has been shown 
above, to the formation of sects. 

On the other hand, the development of German 
Pietism from a Lutheran basis, with which the names 
of Spener, Francke, and Zinzendorf are connected, 
led away from the doctrine of predestination. But at 
the same time it was by no means outside the body 
of ideas of which that dogma formed the logical 
climax, as is especially attested by Spener's own 
account of the influence which English and Dutch 
Pietism had upon him, and is shown by the fact that 
Bailey was read in his first conventicles.^^® 

From our special point of view, at any rate. Pietism 
meant simply the penetration of methodically controlled 
and supervised, thus of ascetic, conduct into the non- 
^alvinistic denominations .^^^ But Lutheranism neces- 
sarily felt this rational asceticism to be a foreign element, 
and the lack of consistency in German Pietistic doc- 
trines was the result of the difficulties growing out of 
that fact. As a dogmatic basis of systematic religious 
conduct Spener combines Lutheran ideas with the 
specifically Calvinistic doctrine of good works as such 
which are undertaken with the "intention of doing 
honour to God".^^^ He also has a faith, suggestive of 
Calvinism, in the possibility of the elect attaining a 
relative degree of Christian perfection .^^^ But the 
theory lacked consistency. Spener, who was strongly 
influenced by the mystics ,^^2 attempted, in a rather 
uncertain but essentially Lutheran manner, rather to 

The Religious Foundations of Worldly Asceticism 

describe the systematic type of Christian conduct 
which was essential to even his form of Pietism than 
to justify it. He did not derive the certitudo saliitishom. 
sanctification ; instead of the idea of proof, he adopted 
Luther's somewhat loose connection between faith and 
works, which has been discussed above. ^^^ 

But again and again, in so far as the rational and 
ascetic element of Pietism outweighed the emotional, 
the ideas essential to our thesis maintained their place. 
These were: (i) that the methodical development of / 
one's own state of grace to a higher and higher degree 
of certainty and perfection in terms of the law was a 
sign of grace ^2*; and (3) that "God's Providence works 
through those in such a state of perfection", i.e. in that 
He gives them His signs if they wait patiently and 
deliberate methodically .^^^ Labour in a calling was also 
the ascetic activity /»ar excellence for A. H. Francke ^2^; 
that God Himself blessed His chosen ones through the 
success of their labours was as undeniable to him as we 
shall find it to have been to the Puritans. 

And as a substitute for the double decree Pietism 
worked out ideas which, in a way essentially similar to 
Calvinism, though milder, established an aristocracy of 
the elect^^' resting on God's especial grace, with all 
the psychological results pointed out above. Among 
them belongs, for instance, the so-called doctrine of 
Terminism,^28 ^hich was generally (though unjustly) 
attributed to Pietism by its opponents. It assumes 
that grace is offered to all men, but for everyone 
either once at a definite moment in his life or at 
some moment for the last time.i^» Anyone who let 
that moment pass was beyond the help of the 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

universality of grace ; he was in the same situation as 
those neglected by God in the Calvinistic doctrine. 
Quite close to this theory was the idea which Francke 
took from his personal experience, and which was very 
widespread in Pietism, one may even say predomi- 
nant, that grace could only become effective under 
certain unique and peculiar circumstances, namely, 
after previous repentance .^^^ Since, according to Pietist 
doctrine, not everyone was capable of such experiences, 
those who, in spite of the use of the ascetic methods 
recommended by the Pietists to bring it about, did not 
attain it, remained in the eyes-t)f the regenerate a sort 
of passive Christian. On the other hand, by the creation 
of a rnethodjto_induce repentance even the attainment 
of divine grace became in effect an object of rational 
human activity. 

Moreover, the antagonism to the private confessional, 
which, though not shared by all — ^for instance, not by 
Francke — ^was characteristic of many Pietists, especially, 
as the repeated questions in Spener show, of Pietist 
pastors, resulted from this aristocracy of grace. This 
antagonism helped to weaken its ties with Lutheranism. 
The visible effects on conduct of grace gained through 
repentance formed a necessary criterion for admission 
to absolution; hence it was impossible to let contritio 
alone suffice .^^^ 

Zinzendorf's conception of his own religious posi- 
tion, even though it vacillated in the face of attacks 
from orthodoxy, tended generally toward the instru- 
mental idea. Beyond that, however, the doctrinal 
standpoint of this remarkable religious dilettante, as 
Ritschl calls him, is scarcely capable of clear formula- 


The Religions Foundations of Worldly Asceticism 

tion in the points of importance for us.^^^ He repeatedly 
designated himself a representative of Pauline-Lutheran 
Christianity; hence he opposed the Pietistic type 
associated with Jansen with its adherence to the law. 
But the Brotherhood itself in practice upheld, as early 
as its Protocol of August 12, 1729, a standpoint which 
in many respects closely resembled that of the Gal- 
vinistic aristocracy of the elect.^^^ And in spite of his 
repeated avowals of Lutheranism/^* he permitted and 
encouraged it. The famous stand of attributing the Old 
Testament to Christ, taken on November 12, 1741, was 
the outward expression of somewhat the same attitude. 
However, of the. three branches of the Brotherhood, 
both the Calvinistic and the Moravian accepted the 
Reformed ethics in essentials from the beginning. 
And even Zinzendorf followed the Puritans in ex- 
pressing to John Wesley the opinion that even though 
a man himself could not, others could know his state 
of grace by his conduct .^^^ 

But on the other hand, in the peculiar piety of 
Hermhut, the emotional element held a very prominent 
place. In particular Zinzendorf himself continually 
attempted to counteract the tendency to ascetic 
sanctification in the Puritan sense ^^® and to turn the 
interpretation of good works in a Lutheran direction.^^' 
Also under the influence of the repudiation of con- 
venticles and the retention of the confession, there 
developed an essentially Lutheran dependence on the 
sacraments. Moreover, Zinzendorf 's peculiar principle 
that the childlikeness of religious feeling was a sign of 
its genuineness, as well as the use of the lot as a means 
of revealing God's will, strongly counteracted the 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

influence of rationality in conduct. On the whole, 
within the sphere of influence of the Count,^^® the 
anti-rational, emotional elements predominated much 
more in the religion of the Herrnhuters than elsewhere 
in Pietism. ^^^ The connection between morality and 
the forgiveness of sins in Spangenberg's Idea fides 
fratrum is as loose ^^^ as in Lutheranism generally. 
Zinzendorf's repudiation of the Methodist pursuit of 
perfection is part, here as everywhere, of his funda- 
mentally eudasmonistic ideal of having men experience 
eternal bliss (he calls it happiness) emotionally in the 
present, ^^^ instead of encouraging them by rational 
labour to make sure of it in the next, world .^'^^ 

Nevertheless, the idea that the most important value 
of the Brotherhood as contrasted with other Churches 
lay in an active Christian life, in missionary, and, which 
was brought into connection with it, in professional 
■ work in a calling,^ ^^ remained a vital force with them. 
In addition, the practical rationalization of life from 
the standpoint of utility was very essential to Zinzen- 
dorf's philosophy.^** It was derived for him, as for 
other Pietists, on the one hand from his decided dislike 
of philosophical speculation as dangerous to faith, 
and his corresponding preference for empirical know- 
ledge ^*^; on the other hand, from the shrewd common 
sense of the professional missionary. The Brotherhood 
was, as a great mission centre, at the same time a 
business enterprise. Thus it led its members into the 
paths of worldly asceticism, which everywhere first 
seeks for tasks and then carries them out carefully and 
systematically. However, the glorification of the apos- 
tolic poverty, of the disciples ^*^ chosen by God 


The Religious Foundations of Worldly Asceticism 

through predestination, which was derived from the 
example of the apostles as missionaries, formed another 
obstacle. It meant in effect a partial revival of the 
consilia evangelica. The development of a rational 
economic ethic similar to the Calvinistic was certainly 
retarded by these factors, even though, as the develop- 
ment of the Baptist movement shows, it was not 
impossible, but on the contrary subjectively strongly 
encouraged by the idea of work solely for the sake 
of the calling. 

All in all, when we consider German Pietism from 
the point of view important for us, we must admit a 
vacillation and uncertainty in the religious basis of its 
asceticism which makes it definitely weaker than the 
iron consistency of Calvinism, and which is partly the 
result of Lutheran influences and partly of its emotional 
character. To be sure, it is very one-sided to make this 
emotional element the distinguishing characteristic of 
Pietism as opposed to Lutheranism.^^' But compared 
to Calvinism, the rationalization of life was necessarily 
less intense because the pressure of occupation with a 
state of grace which had continually to be proved, and 
which was concerned for the future in eternity, was 
diverted to the present emotional state. The place of 
the self-confidence which the elect sought to attain, and 
continually to renew in restless and successful work at 
his calling, was taken by an attitude of humility and 
abnegation .1^^ This in turn was partly the result of 
emotional stimulus directed solely toward spiritual 
experience; partly of the Lutheran institution of the 
confession, which, though it was often looked upon 
with serious doubts by Pietism, was still generally 

L 137 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

tolerated .^*^ All this shows the influence of the pecu- 
liarly Lutheran conception of salvation by the forgive- 
ness of sins and not by practical sanctification.(l[n place 
^of the systematic rational struggle to attain ana retain 
certain knowledge of future (otherworldly) salvation 
comes here the need to feel reconciliation and com- 
munity with God now. Thus the tendency of the pursuit 
of present enjoyment to hinder the rational organization 
of economic life, depending as it does on provision for 
the future, has in a certain sense a parallel in the field 
of religious life. 

Evidently, then, thie orientation of religious needs to 
present emotional satisfaction could not develop so 
powerful a motive to rationalize worldly activity, as 
J:he need of the Calvinistic elect for proof with their 
exclusive preoccupation with the beyond. On the 
other hand, it was considerably more favourable to the 
methodi cal penetration of co nduct w ith religion __than 
the traditionalistic faith of the orthodox Lutheran, 
bound as it was to the Word and the sacraments. On 
the whole Pietism from Francke and Spener to Zinzen- 
dorf tended toward increasing emphasis on the 
emotional side. But this was not in any sense the 
expression of an immanent law of development. The 
differences resulted from differences of the religious 
(and social) environments from which the leaders 
came. We cannot enter into that here, nor can we 
discuss how the peculiarities of German Pietism have 
affected its social and geographical extension .^^^ We 
must again remind ourselves that this emotional 
Pietism of course shades off into the way of life of 
the Puritan elect by quite gradual stages. If we can, at 



The Religions Foundations of Worldly Asceticism 

least provisionally, point out any practical consequence 
of the difference, we may say that the virtues favoured 
by Pietism were more those on the one hand of the 
I* faithful official, clerk, labourer, or domestic worker.^^i 
and on the other of the predominantly patriarchal 
employer with a pious condescension (in Zinzendorf 's 
manner). Calvinism, in comparison, appears to be more 

I closely related to the hard legalism and the active 
;^ enterprise of bourgeois-capitalistic entrepreneurs. ^^^ 
finally, the purely emotional form of Pietism is, as 
Ritschl 1^^ has pointed out, a religious dilettantism for 
the leisure classes. However far this characterization 
falls short of being exhaustive, it helps to explain certain 
differences in the character (including the economic 
character) of peoples which have been under the 
influence of one or the other of these two ascetic 

C. IVIethodism 

The combination of an emotional 'but still ascetic 
type of religion with increasing indifference to or 
repudiation of the dogmatic basis of Calvinistic 
asceticism is characteristic also of the Anglo-American 
movement corresponding to Continental Pietism, 
namely Methodism. ^^^ The name in itself shows what 
impressed contemporaries as characteristic of its ad- 
herents : the methodical, systematic nature of conduct 
for the purpose of attaining the certitudo salutis. This 
was from the beginning the centre of religious aspiration 
for this movement also, and remamed so. In spite of 
all the differences, the undoubted relationship to 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

certain branches of German Pietism^^^ is shown above 
all by the fact that the method was used primarily to 
bring about the emotional act of conversion. And the 
emphasis on feeling, in John Wesley awakened by 
Moravian and Lutheran influences, led Methodism, 
which from the beginning saw its mission among the 
masses, to take on a strongly emotional character, 
especially in America. The attainment of repentance 
under certain circumstances involved an emotional 
struggle of such intensity as to lead to the most terrible 
ecstasies, which in America often took place in a public 
meeting. This formed the basis of a belief in the 
undeserved possession of divine grace and at the same 
time of an immediate consciousness of justification and 

Now this emotional religion entered into a peculiar 
alliance, containing no small inherent difficulties, with 
the ascetic ethics which had for good and all been 
stamped with rationality by Puritanism. For one thing, 
unlike Calvinism, which held everything emotional 
to be illusory, the only sure basis for the certitude 
salutis was in principle held to be a pure feeling of 
ab solute ce rtainty of forgiveness, derived immediately 
from the testimony of the spirit, the coming of which 
could be definitely placed to the hour. Added to this 
is Wesley's doctrine of sanctification which, though a 
decided departure from the orthodox doctrine, is a 
logical development of it. According to it, one reborn 
in this manner can, by virtue of the divine grace 
already working in him, even in this life attain sanctifi- 
cation, the consciousness of perfection in the sense of 
freedom from sin, by a second, generally separate and 



The Religious Foundations of Worldly Asceticism 

often sudden spiritual transformation. However difficult 
of attainment this end is, generally not till toward the 
end of one's life, it must inevitably be sought, because 
it finally guarantees the certitudo salutis and substitutes 
a serene confidence for the sullen worry of the Calvin- 
ist .^^® And it distinguishes the true convert in his own 
eyes and those of others by the fact that sin at least no 
longer has power over him. 

In spite of the great significance of self-evident feeling, 
righteous conduct according to the law was thus natur- 
ally also adhered to. Whenever Wesley attacked the 
emphasis on works of his time, it was only to revive the 
old Puritan doctrine that works are not the cause, 
but only the means of knowing one's st' *f of grace, 
and even this only when they are performed Jiely for 
the glory of God. Righteous conduct alone did not 
suffice, as he had found out for himself. The feeling of 
grace was necessary in addition. He himself sometimes 
described works as a condition of grace, and in the 
Declaration of August 9, 1771,^^' he emphasized that 
he who performed no good works was not a true 
believer. In fact, the Methodists have always main- 
tained that they did not differ from the Established 
Church in doctrine, but only in religious practice. This 
emphasis on the fruits of belief was mostly justified by 
J John iii, 9; conduct is taken as a clear sign of rebirth. 

But in spite of all that there were difficulties.^^ For 
those Methodists who were adherents of the doctrine 
of predestination, to think of the certitudo salutis as 
appearing in the immediate feeling ^^^ of grace and 
perfection instead of the consciousness of grace which 
grew out of ascetic conduct in continual proof of faith — 


TJie Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

since then the certainty of the perservantia depended 
only on the single act of repentance — meant one of two 
things. For weak natures there was a fatalistic inter- 
pretation of Christian freedom, and with it the break- 
down of methodical conduct; or, where this path was 
rejected, the self-confidence of the righteous man^^^ 
reached untold heights, an emotional intensification of 
the Puritan type. In the face of the attacks of opponents, 
the attempt was made to meet these consequences. On 
the one hand by increased emphasis on the normative 
authority of the Bible and the indispensability of 
proof ^^^; on the other by, in effect, strengthening 
Wesley's anti-Calvin istic faction within the movement 
with its doctrine that grace could be lost. The strong 
Lutheran influences to which Wesley was exposed^^^ 
through the Moravians strengthened this tendency and 
increased the uncertainty of the religious basis of the 
Methodist ethics .^^^ In the end only the concept of 
regeneration, an emotional certainty of salvation as the 
immediate result of faith, was definitely maintained as 
the indispensable foundation of grace; and with it 
sanctification, resulting in (at least virtual) freedom 
from the power of sin, as the consequent proof of grace. 
The significance of external means of grace, especially 
the sacraments, was correspondingly diminished. In 
any case, the general awakening which followed 
Methodism everywhere> for example in New England, 
meant a victory for the doctrine of grace and election. ^^* 
Thus from our view-point the Methodist ethic appears 
to rest on a foundation of uncertainty similar to Pietism. 
But the aspiration to the higher life, the second blessed- 
ness, served it as a sort of makeshift for the doctrine 

The Religions Foundations of Worldly Asceticism 

of predestination. Moreover, being English in origin, 
its ethical practice was closely related to that of English 
Puritanism, the revival of which it aspired to be. 

The emotional act of conversion was methodically 
induced. And after it was attained there did not follow 
a pious enjoyment of community with God, after the 
manner of the emotional Pietism 'of Zinzendorf, but 
the emotion, once awakened, was directed into a 
rational struggle for perfection. Hence the emotional 
character of its faith did not lead to a spiritualized 
religion of feeling like German Pietism. It has already 
been. shown by Schneckenburger that this fact was 
connected with the less intensive development of the 
sense of sin (partly directly on account of the emotional 
experience of conversion), and this has remained an 
accepted point in the discussion of Methodism. The 
fundamentally Calvinistic character of its religious 
feeling here remained decisive. The emotional excite- 
ment took the form of enthusiasm which was only 
occasionally, but then powerfully stirred, but which 
by no means destroyed the otherwise rational character 
of conduct .^^^ The rege neration of Met hodism thus 
created only a supplement to the pure ^ctrine of 
works, a religious basis for ascetic conduct after the 
doctrine of predestination had been given up. The 
signs given by conduct which formed an indispensable 
means of ascertaining true conversion, even its con- 
dition as Wesley occasionally says, were in fact just the 
same as those of Calvinism. As a late product ^^^ we 
can, in the following discussion, generally neglect 
Methodism, as it added nothing new to the develop- 
ment ^^' of the idea of calling. 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

D. The Baptist Sects 

The Pietism of the Continent of Europe and the 
Methodism of the Anglo-Saxon peoples are, considered 
both in their content of ideas and their historical 
significance, . secondary movements.^®^ On the other 
hand, we find a second independent source of Protest- 
ant asceticism besides Calvinism in the Baptist move- 
ment and the sects ^^^ which, in the course of the 
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, came directly 
from it or adopted its forms of religious thought, the 
Baptists, Mennonites, and, above all, the Quakers.^ '^ 
With them we approach religious groups who se ethics 
rest upo n_a_bas is differing in principle from theCal- 
vinistic doctrine. The followIng~^etch, "which only 
emphasizes what is important for us, can give no true 
impression of the diversity of this movement. Again 
we lay the principal emphasis on the development in 
the older capitalistic countries. 

The feature of all these communities, which is both 
historically and in principle most important, but whose 
influence on the development of culture can only be 
made quite clear in a somewhat different connection, is 
something with which we are already familiar, the 
believer's Church .^^^ This means that the religious 
community, the visible Church in the language of the 
Reformation Churches ,^'2 was no longer looked upon 
as a sort of trust foundation for supernatural ends, an 
institution, necessarily including both the just and the 
unjust, whether for increasing the glory of God 
(Calvinistic ) or as a mediurh for bringing the means 
of salvation to men (Catholic and Lutheran), but 


The Religious Foundations of Worldly Asceticism 

solely as a comm unityof pe rsonal believers of the 
.V rb r ^rn j ^pH onlyn RFv^s^ Tn other words, not as a 
/Church but as a sect.^"^ This is all that the principle, 
in itself purely external, that only adults who have 
personally gained their own faith should be baptized, 
is meant to symbolize.^'* The justification through 
this faith was for the Baptists, as they have insistently 
repeated in all religious discussions, radically different 
from the idea of work in the world in the service of 
Christ, such as dominated the orthodox dogma of the 
older Protestantism.^'^ It consisted rather in taking 
spiritual possession of His gift of salvation. But this 
occurred through individual revelation, by the working 
of the Divine Spirit in the individual, and only in that 
way. It was offered to everyone, and it sufficed to wait 
for the Spirit, and not- to resist its coming by a sinful 
attachment to the world. The significance of faith in 
the sense of knowledge of the doctrines of the Church, 
but also in that of a repentant search for divine grace, 
was consequently quite minimized, and there took 
place, naturally with great modifications, a renais- 
sance of Early Christian pneumatic doctrines. For 
instance, the sect to which Menno Simons in his 
Fondamentboek (1539) gave the first reasonably con- 
sistent doctrine, wished, like the other Baptist sects, 
to be the true blameless Church of Christ; like the 
apostolic community, consisting entirely of those per- 
sonally awakened and called by God. JT hose w hohave 
b een born again, and they alone, are brethren of Christ . 
.because they, like Him, have been created in spiri t 
.directlyby God.^'^ A strict avoidance of the world, in 
the sense of air not strictly necessary intercourse with 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

worldly people, together with the strictest bibliocracy 
in the sense of taking the life of the first generations 
of Christians as a model, were the results for the first 
Baptist communities, and this principle of avoidance of 
the world never quite disappeared so long as the old 
spirit remained alive .^'^ 

As a permanent possession, the Baptist sects retained 
from these dominating motives of their early period a 
principle with which, on a somewhat different founda- 
tion, we have already become acquainted in Calvinism, 
and the fundamental importance of which will again 
and again come out. The y absolute ly repudiated all 
idolatryofthejlesh, as a detractionfrom the reverence 
due to God alone .^'® The Biblical way of life was 
conceived by the first Swiss and South German 
Baptists with a radicalism similar to that of the young 
St. Francis, as a sharp break with all the enjoyment of 
life, a life modelled directly on that of the Apostles. 
And, in truth, the life of many of the earlier Baptists 
is reminiscent of that of St. Giles. But this strict 
observation of Biblical precepts^^^ was not on very 
secure foundations in its connection with the pneu- 
matic character of the faith. What God had revealed 
to the prophets and apostles was not all that He could 
and would reveal. On the contrary, the continued life 
of the Word, not as a written document, but as the 
force of the Holy Spirit working in daily life, which 
speaks directly to any individual who is willing to hear, 
was the sole characteristic of the true Church. That, as 
Schwe n kfeld taugh t as against Luther and later Fox 
a^inst_the_Presbyterians, was the testimony oF the 
early Christian communities. From this idea oF^the 

The Religious Foundations of Worldly Asceticism 

continuance of revelation developed the well-known 
doctrine, later consistently worked out by the Quakers, 
of the (in the last analysis decisive) significance of the 
inner testimony of the Spirit in reason and conscience. 
I This did away, not with the authority, but with the 
' sole authority, of the Bible, and started a development 
which in the end radically eliminated all that remained 
of the doctrine of salvation through the Church; for 
the Quakers even with Baptism and the Communion .^®^ 
The Baptist denominations along with the pre- 
destinationists, especially the strict Calvinists, carried 
out the most radical devaluation of all sacraments as 
means to salvation, and thus accomplished the religious 
rationalization of the world in its most extreme form. 
Only th e inner light of continu al re yelafio n could 
en able one truly to Understand__ even the _ jBiblical 
revelations of God.^®^ On the other hand, at least 
according to the Quaker doctrine which here drew the 
logical conclusion, its effects could be extended to 
people who had never known revelation in its Biblical 
form. The proposition extra ecclesiam nulla salus held 
only for this /«visible Church of those illuminated by 
the Spirit. Without the inner light, the natural man, 
even the man guided by natural reason, ^^^ remained 
purely a creature of the flesh, whose godlessness was 
condemned by the Baptists, including the Quakers, 
almost even more harshly than by the Calvinists. On 
the other hand, the new birth caused by the Spirit, if 
we wait for it and open our hearts to it, may, since it is 
divinely caused, lead to a state of such complete 
conquest of the power of sin,^^^ that relapses, to say 
nothing of the loss of the state of grace, become 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

practically impossible. However, as in Methodism at 
a later time, the attainment of that state was not 
thought of as the rule, but rather the degree of perfec- 
tion of the individual was subject to development. 
But all Baptist communities desired to be pure 
^. Churches in the sense of the blameless conduct of their 
members. A sincere repudiatio n of the world and its 
interests, and unconditional submission to God as 
speaking through the conscience, were the only un- 
challengeable signs of true rebirth, and a corresponding 
type of conduct was thus indispensable to salvation. 
And hence the gift of God's grace could not be earned, 
i but only one who followed the dictates of his conscience 
1 could be justified in considering himself reborn. Good 
1 works in this sense were a causa sine qua non. As we 
s^e, this last reasoning of Barclay, to whose exposition 
-' \^e have adhered, was again the equivalent in practice 
cjf the Calvinistic doctrine, and was certainly developed 
linder the influence of the Calvinistic asceticism, 
which surrounded the Baptist sects in Englandand the 
Netherlands. George Fox devoted the whole of his 
early missionary activity to the preaching of its earnest 
and sincere adoption. 

^ut \sinc £^Bredestinati on w asjrejected , the peculiarly 
Tational character of Baptist morality rested psycho- 
logically above all on the idea of expectant waiting for 
the Spirit to descend, which even to-day is character- 
istic of the Quaker meeting, and is well analysed by 
Barclay, ^he purpose of this silent waiting is to over- 
come everything impulsive and irrational, the passions 
and subjective interests of the natural man. He must 
be stilled in order to create that deep repose of the 

The Religious Foundations of Worldly Asceticism 

soul in which alone the word of God can be heard. 
Of course, this waiting might result in hysterical con- 
ditions, prophecy, and, as long as eschato logical hopes 
survived, under certain circumstances even in an 
outbreak of chiliastic enthusiasm, as is possible in all 
similar types of religion. That actually happened in the 
movement which went to pieces in Münster. 

But in so far as Baptism affected the normal worka- 
day world, the idea that God only speaks when the 
flesh is silent evidently meant an incentive to the 
deliberate weighing of courses of action and their 
careful justification in terms of the individual con- 
science.^^* The later Baptist communities, most par- 
ticularly the Quakers, adopted this quiet, moderate, 
eminently conscientious character of conduct. The 
r adical elimination of magic from the world allowe d 
no other psychological course than the practice o f 
worldly asceticism. Since these communities would 
Kave nothing to do with the political powers and their 
doings, the external result also was the penetration of 
life in the calling with these ascetic virtues. The leaders 
of the earliest Baptist movement were ruthlessly 
radical in their rejection of worldliness. But naturally, 
even in the first generation, the strictly apostolic way 
of life was not maintained as absolutely essential to 
the proof of rebirth for everyone. Well-to-do bourgeois 
there were, even in this generation and even before 
Menno, who definitely defended the practical worldly 
virtues and the system of private property; the strict 
morality of the Baptists had turned in practice into 
the path prepared by the Calvinistic ethic .^^^ This was 
simply because the road to the otherworldly monastic 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

form of asceticism had been closed as unbiblical and 
savouring of salvation by works since Luther, whom, 
the Baptists also followed in this respect. 1 

Nevertheless, apart from the half-communistic com- 
munities of the early period, one Baptist sect, the so- 
called Dunckards (Tunker, dompelaers)^ has to this day 
maintained its condemnation of education and of eveiy 
form of possession beyond that indispensable to life. 
And even Barclay looks upon the obligation to one's 
calling not in Calvinistic or even Lutheran terms, but 
rather Thomistically, as naturali ratione, the necessary 
consequence of the believers having to live in the 
world. ^^^ 

This attitude meant a weakening of the Calvinistic 
conception of the calling similar to those of Spener and 
the German Pietists. But, on the other hand, the 
intensity of interest in economic occupations was 
considerably increased by various factors at work in 
the Baptist sects. In the first place, by the refusal to 
accept office in the service of the State, which origin- 
ated as a religious duty following from the repudiation 
of everything worldly. After its abandonment in 
principle it still remained, at least for the Mennonites 
and Quakers, effective in practice, because the strict 
refusal to bear arms or to take oaths formed a sufficient 
disqualification for office. Hand in hand with it in all 
Baptists' denominations went an invincible antagonism 
to any sort of aristocratic way of life. Partly, as with 
the Calvinists, it was a consequence of the prohibition 
of all idolatry of the flesh, partly a result of the afore- 
mentioned unpolitical or even anti-political principles. 
The whole shrewd and conscientious rationality of 


The Religious Foundations of Worldly Asceticism 

Baptist conduct was thus forced into non-political 

A^t the same time , the immense importance which was 
at tributed by the Baptist doctrine of salvation ^ to the 
role of the ronsri ence as the revelation oj ^Qodi^ the 
individual gave their conduct in worldly callings a 
Character which was of the greatest significance for the 
development of the spirit of capitalism. We shall have 
to postpone its consideration until later, and it can then 
be studied only in so far as this is possible without 
entering into the whole political and social ethics of 
Protestant asceticism. But, to anticipate this much, we 
have already called attention to that most important 
principle of the capitalistic ethic which is generally 
formulated *' honesty is the_ best policy ".^^' Its classical 
document is the tract of Franklin quoted above. And 
even in the judgment of the seventeenth century the 
specific form of the worldly asceticism of the Baptists, 
especially the Quakers, lay in the practical adoption of 
this maxim .^^ On the other hand, we shall expect to 
find that the influence of Calvinisnrwn5~exened more 
in the direction of the liberation of energy for private 
acquisition. For in spiteof all the tormanegä!ismrüf~~ 
the elect, Goethe's remark in fact applied often enough 
to the Calvinist: ''The man of action is always ruthless; 
no one has a conscience but an observer."^^® 

A further important element which promoted the 
intensity of the worldly asceticism of the Baptist 
denominations can in its full significance also be 
considered only in another connection. Nevertheless, . 
we may anticipate a few remarks on it to justify the 
order of presentation we have chosen. We have quite 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

deliberately not taken as a starting-point the objective 
social institutions of the older Protestant Churches, 
and their ethical influences, especially not the very 
important Church discipline. We have preferred rather 
to take the results which subjective adoption of an 
ascetic faith might have had in the conduct of the 
individual. This was not only because this side of the 
thing has previously received far less attention than 
the other, but also because the effect of Church disci- 
pline was by no means always a similar one. On the 
contrary, the ecclesiastical supervision of the life of the 
individual, which, as it was practised in thie Calvinistic 
State Churches, almost amounted to an inquisition, 
might even retard that liberation of individual powers 
which was conditioned by the rational ascetic pursuit of 
salvation, and in some cases actually did so. 

The mercantilistic regulations of the State might 
develop industries, but not, or certainly not alone, the 
spirit of capitalism; where they assumed a despotic, 
authoritarian character, they to a large extent directly 
hindered it. Thus a similar eff"ect might well have 
resulted from ecclesiastical regimentation when it 
became excessively despotic. It enforced a particular 
type of external conformity, but in some cases weakened 
the subjective motives of rational conduct. Any dis- 
cussion of this point^^^ must take account of the great 
difference between the results of the authoritarian 
moral discipline of the Established Churches and the 
corresponding discipline in the sects which rested on 
voluntary submission. That the Baptist movement 
everywhere and in principle founded sects and not 
Churches was certainly as favourable to the intensity 

The Religious Foundations of Worldly Asceticism 

of their asceticism as was the case, to differing degrees, 
with those Calvinistic, Methodist, and Pietist com- 
munities which were driven by their situations into the 
formation of voluntary groups. ^^^ 

It is our next task to follow out the results of the 
Puritan Idea of the calling in the business world, now 
that the above sketch has attempted to show its religious 
foundations. With all the differences of detail and 

emphasis which these different ascetic movements 
show in the aspects with which we have been concerned, 
much the same characteristics are present and impor- 
tant in all of them.^^2 But for our pu rposes the decisive 
point jw^^to recapitulate, the conception of the state 
Q£xeligiQus_grace, common to all the denominations, as 
a status which marks off its possessor from the degrada- 

tionji£lhe_flesh,Jrom the worM.l-^ 

On the other hand, though the means by which it 
was attained differed for different doctrines, it could ~ 
not be guaran teed by any magical sacraments, by relief / 
in the confession, nor by individual good works .^That 
was only possible by p roof in a specific t ype of conduct 
unmistakably different from the way of life of the 
natural man. FronL-thajLJollQwed^for the individual 
an incentive met hodically to supervise his own s^e 
of^grace in his o wn conduct TandT t hus IfTpene tratfi-it 
with asceticism. But, as we have seen, this ascetic 
conduct meant a rational planning of the whole of one's 
life in accordance with God's will. And this asceticism 
was no longer an opus supererogationis , but something 
which could be required of everyone who would be 
certain of salvation. The religious life of the saints, as 
distinguished from the natural life, was — the most 

M 153 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

important point — no longer lived outside the world in 
monastic communities, but within the world and its 
institutions. This rationalization of conduct within 
this world, but for the sake of the world beyond, was 
the consequence of the concept of calling of ascetic 
Protestantism, ,. ' 

iristian asceticism, at first fleeing from the world 
into solitude, had already ruled the. world which it had 
renounced from the monastery and through the 
Church. But it had, on the whole, left the naturally 
spontaneous character of daily life in the world un- 
touched. Now it strode into the market-place of life, 
slammed the door of the monastery behind it, and 
undertook to penetrate just that daily routine of life 
with its methodicalness, to fashion it into a life in the 
world, but neither of nor for this world. With what 
result, we shall try to make clear in the following 




In order to understand the connection between the 
fundamental religious ideas of ascetic Protestantism 
and its maxims for everyday economic conduct, it is 
necessary to examine with especial care such writings 
as have evidently been derived from ministerial prac- 
tice. For in a time in which the beyond meant every- 
thing, when the social position of the Christian 
depended upon his admission to the communion, the 
clergyman, through his ministry. Church discipline, 
and preaching, exercised an influence (as a glance at 
collections of consilia, casus conscientice, etc., shows) 
which we modern men are entirely unable to picture. 
In such a time the religious forces which express 
themselves through such channels are the decisive 
influences in the formation of national character. 

For the purposes of this chapter, though by no 
means for all purposes, we can treat ascetic Protestant- 
ism as a single whole. But since that side of English 
Puritanism which was derived from Calvinism gives 
the most consistent religious basis for the idea of the 
calling, we shall, following our previous method, 
place one of its representatives at the centre of the 
discussion. Richard Baxter stands out above many 
other writers on Puritan ethics, both because of his 
eminently practical and realistic attitude, and, at the 
same time, because of the universal recognition 
accorded to his works, which have gone through many 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

new editions and translations. He was a Presbyterian 
and an apologist of the Westminster Synod, but at the 
same time, like so many of the best spirits of his time, 
gradually grew away from the dogmas of pure Calvin- 
ism. At heart he opposed Cromwell's usurpation as he 
would any revolution. He was unfavourable to the 
sects and the fanatical enthusiasm of the saints, 
but was very broad-minded about external peculiarities 
and objective towards his opponents. He sought his 
field of labour most especially in the practical promo- 
tion of the moral life through the Church. In the 
pursuit of this end, as one of the most successful 
ministers known to history, he placed his services at 
the disposal of the Parliamentary Government, of 
Cromwell, and of the Restoration,^ until he retired 
from office under the last, before St. Bartholomew's 
day. His Christian Directory is the most complete 
compendium of Puritan ethics, and is continually 
adjusted to the practical experiences of his own minis- 
terial activity. In comparison we shall make use of 
Spener's Theologische Bedenken^ as representative of 
German Pietism, Barclay's Apology for the Quakers, 
and some other representatives of ascetic ethics,^ 
which, however, in the interest of space, will be 
limited as far as possible.^ 

Now, in glancing at Baxter's Saints^ Everlasting Rest, 
or his Christian Directory^ or similar works of others,* 
one is struck at first glance by the emphasis placed, in 
the discussion of wealth^ and its acquisition, on the 
ebionitic elements of the New Testament.^ Wealth 
as such is a great danger; its temptations never end, 
and its pursuit'^ is not only senseless as compared with 


Asceticism and the Spirit of Capitalism 

the dominating importance of the Kingdom of God, 
but it is morally suspect. Here asceticism seems to have 
turned much more sharply against the acquisition of 
earthly goods than it did in Calvin, who saw no hin- 
drance to the effectiveness of the clergy in their wealth, 
but rather a thoroughly desirable enhancement of their 
prestige. Hence he permitted them to employ their 
means profitably. Examples of the condemnation ^f 
the pursuit of money and goods may be gathered 
without end from Puritan writings, and may be 
contrasted with the late mediaeval ethical literature, 
which was much more open-minded on this point. 

Moreover, these doubts were meant with perfect 
seriousness; only it is necessary to examine them 
somewhat more closely in order to understand their 
true ethical significance and implications. The real 
moral objection is ^o_rela3^tipn in the security of 
possession,^ the enjoyment of wealth with the conse- 
quence of idleness and the temptations of the flesh, 
above all of distraction from the pursuit of a righteous 
life. Iß fact, itjs_only because possession_invq]yes_this 
danger of relaxation that it is objectionable at all. For 
the Saints' everlasting rest is in the next world; on 
earth man must, to be certain of his state of grace, 
"do the works of him who sent him, as long as it is 
yet day". NaL leisure and enjoyment^ but only activity 
serves to increase the glory of God, according to the 
definite manifestations of His will.^ y 

Wi\^te, nf time is thus tji^ first and in principle the A 
deadliest of sins. The span of human life is infinitely 
short and precious to make sure of one's own election. 
Loss of time through sociability, idle talk,^" luxur^^^^ 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

even more sleep than is necessary for health,^^ six to at 
most eight hours, is worthy of absolute moral con- 
demnation .^^ It does not yet hold, with Franklin, that 
time is money, but the proposition is true in a certain 
spiritual sense. It is infinitely valuable because every 
y hour lost is lost to labour for the glory of God.^* 
Thus inactive contemplation is also valueless, or even 
directly reprehensible if it is at the expense of one's 
daily work.^^ For it is less pleasing to God than the 
active performance of His will in a calling .^^ Besides, 
Sunday is provided for that, and, according to Baxter, 
it is always those who are not diligent in their callings who 
have no time for God when the occasion demands it.^'^ 
Accordingly, Baxter's principal work is dominated 
yby the continually repeated, often almost passionate 
^ preaching of hard, continuous bodily or mental labour. ^^ 
[t is due to a combination of two different motives .^^ 
'Labour is, on the one hand, an approved ascetic 
technique, as it always has been^^ in the Western 
Church, in sharp contrast not only to the Orient but 
to almost all monastic rules the world over.^^ It is in 
particular the specific defence against all those tempta- 
tions which Puritanism united under the name of the 
unclean life, whose role for it was by no means small. 
The sexual asceticism of Puritanism differs only in 
degree, not in fundamental principle, from that of 
monasticism ; and on account of the Puritan conception 
of marriage, its practical influence is more far-reaching 
than that of the latter. For sexual intercourse is per- 
mitted, even within marriage, only as the means willed 
by God for the increase of His glory according to the 
commandment, "Be fruitful and multiply." ^^ Along 


Asceticism and the Spirit of Capitalism 

with a moderate vegetable diet and cold baths, the 
same prescription is given for all sexual temptations as 
is used against religious doubts and a sense of moral 
unworthiness : "Work hard in your calling." ^3 But 
the most important thing was that even beyond that 
labour came to be considered in itself ^^ the end of life, 
ordained as such by God. St. Paul's "He who will not 
work shall not eat" holds unconditionally for every- 
one .^^ Unwillingness to work is symptomatic of the 
lack of grace .^^ 

Here the difference from the mediaeval view-point 
becomes quite evident. Thomas Aquinas also gave an 
interpretation of that statement of St. Paul. But for 
him^' labour is only necessary naturali ratione for the 
maintenance of individual and community. Where this 
end is achieved, the precept ceases to have any meaning.. 
Moreover, it holds only for the race, not for every 
individual. It does not apply to anyone who can live 
without labour on his possessions, and of course 
contemplation, as a spiritual form of action in the 
Kingdom of God, takes precedence over the command- 
ment in its literal sense. Moreover, for the popular 
theology of the time, the highest form of monastic 
productivity lay in the increase of the Thesaurus 
ecclesice through prayer and chant. 

Now only do these exceptions to the duty to labour 
naturally no longer hold for Baxter, but he holds most 
emphatically that wealth does not exempt anyone from 
the unconditional command .^^ Even the wealthy shall 
not eat without working, for even though they do not 
need to labour to support their own needs, there is 
God's commandment which they, like the poor, must 



The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

obey .2® For everyone without exception God's Provi- 
dence has prepared a calHng, which he should profess 
and in which he should labour. And this calling is not, 
as it was for the Lutheran, ^^ a fate to which he must 
submit and which he must make the best of, but God's 
comm andment to t he individual to work for the divine 
glory. This seemingly subtle difference had far^re acEin g 
psychological consequences, and became connected with 
a further development of the providential interpretation 
of the economic order which had begun in scholasticism. 
The phenomenon— of _the_ division of jabour and 
/occupations in society had, among others, been inter- 
/preted by Thomas Aquinas, to whom we may most 
' conveniently refer, as a direct consequence of the 
divine scheme of things. But the places assigned to 
each man in this cosmos follow ex causis naturalibus and 
are fortuitous (contingent in the Scholastic termin- 
ology). The differentiation of men into the classes and 
occupations established through historical development 
became for Luther, as we have seen, a direct result of 
the divine will. The perseverance of the individual in 
the place and within the limits which God had assigned 
to him was a religious duty.^^ This was the more 
certainly the consequence since the relations of Luther- 
anism to the world were in general uncertain from the 
beginning and remained so. Ethical principles for the 
reform of the world could not be found in Luther's 
realm of ideas ; in fact it never quite freed itself from 
Pauline indifference. Hence the world had to be accepted 
as it was, and this alone could be made a religious duty. 
But J n_the-Puritan view, the providential character 
or the play of private economic interests takes on a 
1 60 

Asceticism and the Spirit of Capitalism 

somewhat different emphasis. True to the Puritan 
tendency to pragmatic interpretations, the providential 
purpos£-Q£-tbe^diyision of labour is to be known by its 
fruits. On this point Baxter expressesTiimself in terms 
which more than once directly recall Adam Smith's 
well-known apotheosis of the division of labour. ^^ The ' 
specialization of occupations lead^, since it makes the 
development of skill possible, to a quantitative and 
qualitative improvement in production, and thus serves 
the common good, which is identical with the good 
of the greatest possible number. So far, the motivation is 
purely utilitarian, and is closely related to the customary 
view-point of much of the secular literature of the time.^^ 

But the characteristic Puritan element appears when 
Baxter sets at the head of his discussion the statement 
that *'outside of a well-marked calling the accomplish- 
ments of a man are only casual and irregular, and he 
spends more time in idleness than at work", and when he 
concludes it as follows : "and he [the specialized worker] 
will carry out his work in order while another remains in 
constant confusion, and his business knows neither time 
nor place ^* . . . therefore is a certain calling the best for 
everyone". Irregular work, which the ordinary labourer is 
often forced to accept, is often unavoidable, but always an 
unwelcome state of transition. A man without a calling 
thus lacks the systematic, methodical character which is, 
as we have seen, demanded by worldly asceticism. 

The Quaker ethic also holds that a man's life in his 
calling is an exercise in ascetic virtue, a proof of his 
state, of grace through his conscientiousness, which is 
expressed in the care ^^ and method wit h which he 
pursues his calling. What God demands is not labour 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

in itself, but rational labour in a calling. In the Puritan 
concept of the calling the emphasis is always placed on 
this methodical character of worldly asceticism, not, as 
with Luther, on the acceptance of the lot which God 
has irretrievably assigned to man.^^ 

Hence the question whether anyone may combine 
several callings is answered in the affirmative, if it is 
useful for the common good or one's own,^' and not 
injurious to anyone, and if it does not lead to un- 
faithfulness in one of the callings. Even a change of 
calling is by no means regarded as objectionable, if it 
is not thoughtless and is made for the purpose of 
pursuing a calling more pleasing to God,^^ which 
means, on general principles, one more useful. 

It is true that the usefulness of a calling, and thus its 

I favour in the sight of God, is measured primarily in 

moral terms, and thus in terms of the importance of 

the goods produced in it for the community. But a 

further, and, above all, in practice the most important, 

criterion is found in private profitableness.^^ For if 

that God, whose hand the Puritan sees in all the 

occurrences of life, shows one of His elect a chance of 

profit, he must do it with a purpose. Hence the faithful 

(christian must follow the call by taking advantage of 

Hhe opportunity.^^ *'If God show you a way in which 

you may lawfully get more than in another way (without 

wrong to your soul or to any other), if you refuse this, 

and choose the less gainful way, you crass one of the 

ends of your calling, and you refuse to be God's 

steward, and to accept His gifts and use them for Him 

when He requireth it: you may labour to be rich for 

God, though not for the flesh and sin."*^ 


Asceticism and the Spirit of Capitalism 

Wealth is thu s bad ethically only in so far as it is a 
temptation to idleness and sinful enjoyment of life^ and 
ita-acquiaition is bad only when it is with the purpose 
of _lat£L living merrily and without care. But as a , 
performance of duty in a calling it is not only morally ' 
permissible, but actually enjoined. ^^ The parable of the 
servant who was rejected because he did not increase 
the talent which was entrusted to him seemed to say 
so directly.^^ To wish to be poor was, it was often 
argued, the same as wishing to be unhealthy **; if is 
objectionable as a glorification of works and derogatory 
to the glory of God. Especially begging, on the part of 
one able to work, is not only the sin of slothfulness, 
but a violation of the duty of brotherly love according 
to the Apostle's own wordJL,^^ 

The emphasis on tK^asceti^ importance of a fixed 
calling provided an ethical justification of the modern 
specialized division of labour. In a similar way the 
providential interpretation ot profit-making justified 
the activities of the business man.*^ The superior in- 
dulgence of the seigneur and the parvenu ostentation 
of the nouveau riche are equally detestable to asceticism. 
But, on the other hand, it has the highest ethical 
appreciation of the sober, middle-class, self-made 
man.*' "God blesseth His trade" is a stock remark 
about those good men*^ who had successfully followed 
the divine hints. The whole power of the God of the 
Old Testament, who rewards His people for their 
obedience in this life,*^ necessarily exercised a similar 
influence on the Puritan who, following Baxter's 
advice, compared his own state of grace with that of 
the heroes of the Bible,^^ and in the process interpreted 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

the statements of the Scriptures as the articles of a book 
of statutes. 

Of course, the words of the Old Testament were not 
entirely without ambiguity. We have seen that Luther 
first used the concept of the calling in the secular sense 
in translating a passage from Jesus Sirach. But the 
book of Jesus Sirach belongs, with the whole atmo- 
sphere expressed in it, to those parts of the broadened 
Old Testament with a distinctly traditionalistic ten- 
dency, in spite of Hellenistic influences. It is charac- 
teristic that down to the present day this book seems 
to enjoy a special favour among Lutheran German 
peasants, ^^ just as the Lutheran influence in large 
sections of German Pietism has been expressed by a 
preference for Jesus Sirach .^^ 

The Puritans repudiated the Apocrypha as not 
inspired, consistently with their sharp distinction 
between things divine and things of the flesh. ^^ But 
among the canonical books tliat of Job had all the 
more influence. On the one hand it contained a grand 
conception of the absolute sovereign majesty of God, 
beyond all human comprehension, which was closely 
related to that of Calvinism. With that, on the other 
hand, it combined the certainty which, though inci- 
dental for Calvin, came to be of great importance for 
Puritanism, that God would bless His own in this life — 
in the book of Job only — and also in the material 
sense.^* The Oriental quietism, which appears in several 
of the finest verses of the Psalms and in the Proverbs, 
was interpreted away, just as Baxter did with the 
traditionalistic tinge of the passage in the ist Epistle to 
the Corinthians, so important for the idea of the calling. 

Asceticism and the Spirit of Capitalism 

But all the more emphasis was placed on those parts 
of the Old Testament which praise formal legality as 
a- sign of conduct pleasing to God. They held the 
theory that the Mosaic Law had only lost its validity 
through Christ in so far as it contained ceremonial or 
purely historical precepts applying only to the Jewish 
people, but that otherwise it had always been valid 
as an expression of the natural law, and must hence be 
retained. ^^ This made it possible, on the one hand, to 
eliminate elements which could not be reconciled with 
modern life. But still, through its numerous related 
features, Old Testament morality was able to give a 
powerful impetus to that spirit of self-righteous and 
sober legality which was so characteristic of the worldly 
asceticism of this form of Protestantism.^^ 

Thus when authors, as was the case with several 
contemporaries as well as later writers, characterize the 
basic ethical tendency of Puritanism, especially in 
England, as English Hebraism^ ^ they are, correctly 
understood, not wrong. It is necessary, however, not 
to think of Palestinian Judaism at the time of the 
writing of the Scriptures, but of Judaism as it became 
under the influence of many centuries of formalistic, 
legalistic, and Talmudic education. Even then one must 
be very careful in drawing parallels. The general 
I tendency of the older Judaism toward a naive accept- 
ance of life as such was far removed from the special 
characteristics of Puritanism. It was, however, just as 
far — and this ought not to be overlooked — from the 
economic ethics of mediaeval and modern Judaism, in 
the traits which determined the positions of both in 
the development of the capitalistic ethos. The Jews 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

stood on the side of the politically and speculatively 
oriented adventurous capitalism; their ethos was, in a 
word, that of pariah-capitalism. But Puritanism carried 
the ethos of the rational organization of capital and 
labour. It took over from the Jewish ethic only what 
was adapted to this purpose. 

To analyse the effects on the character of peoples of 
the penetration of life with Old Testament norms — a 
tempting task which, however, has not yet satisfactorily 
been done even for Judaism^® — would be impossible 
within the limits of this sketch. In addition to the 
relationships already pointed out,* it is important for the 
general inner attitude of the Puritans, above all, that 
the belief that they were God's chosen people saw in 
them a great renaissance.^^ Even the kindly Baxter 
thanked God that he was born in England, and thus in 
the true Church, and nowhere else. This thankfulness 
for one's own perfection by the grace of God penetrated 
the attitude toward life ^^ of the Puritan middle class, 
and played its part in developing that formalistic, hard, 
correct character which was peculiar to the men of that 
heroic age of capitalism. 

Let us now try to clarify the points in which the 
Puritan idea of the calling and the premium it placed 
upon ascetic conduct was bound directly to influence 

^ the development of a capitalistic way of life. As we have 
seen, this asceticism turned with all its force against 

\ one_t liingi JjbL^_5pQntaneous enjoyment of life and all 

7it Jiad_to_offer. This is perhaps most charä^cteristically 

brought out in the struggle over the Book of Sports ^^ 

which James I and Charles I made into law expressly 

as a means of counteracting Puritanism, and which 


Asceticism and the Spirit of Capitalism 

the latter ordered to be read from all the pulpits. The 
fanatical opposition of the Puritans to the ordinances 
of the King, permitting certain popular amusements on 
Sunday outside of Church hours by law, was not only 
explained by the disturbance of the Sabbath rest, but 
also by resentment against the intentional diversion 
from the ordered life of the saint, which it caused. 
And, on his side, the King's threats of severe punish- 
ment for every attack on the legality of those sports 
were motivated by his purpose of breaking the anti- 
authoritarian ascetic tendency of Puritanism, which was 
so dangerous to the State. The feudal and monarchical 
forces protected the pleasure seekers against the 
rising middle-class morality and the anti-authoritarian 
ascetic conventicles, just as to-day capitalistic society 
tends to protect those willing to work against the class 
morality of the proletariat and the anti-authoritarian 
trade union. 

As against this the Puritans upheld their decisive 
characteristic, the principle of ascetic conduct. For 
otherwise the Puritan aversion to sport, even for the 
Quakers, was by no means simply one of principle. 
Sport was accepted if it served a rational purpose, that 
of recreation necessary for physical efficiency. But as a 
means for the spontaneous expression of undisciplined 
impulses, it was under suspicion; and in so far as it 
became purely a means of enjoyment, or awakened 
pride, raw instincts or the irrational gambling instinct, 
it was of course strictly condemned. Impulsive enjoy- 
ment of life, which leads away both from work in a 
calling and from religion, was as such the enemy of 
rational asceticism, whether in the form of seigneurial 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

sports, or the enjoyment of the dance-hall or the public- 
house of the common man.^^ 

Its attitude was thus suspicious and often hostile to 
the aspects of culture without any immediate religious 
value. It is not, however, true that the ideals of Puritan- 
ism implied a solemn, narrow-minded contempt of 
culture. Quite the contrary is the case at least for 
science, with the exception of the hatred of Scholasti- 
cism. Moreover, the great men of the Puritan movement 
were thoroughly steeped in the culture of the Renais- 
sance. The sermons of the Presbyterian divines abound 
with classical allusions, ^^ and even the Radicals, although 
they objected to it, were not ashamed to display that 
kind of learning in theological polemics. Perhaps no 
country was ever so full of graduates as New England 
in the first generation of its existence. The satire of 
their opponents, such as, for instance, Butler's Hudibras, 
also attacks primarily the pedantry and highly trained 
dialectics of the Puritans. This is partially due to the 
religious valuation of knowledge which followed from 
their attitude to the Catholic fides implicita. 

But the situation is quite different when one looks 
at non-scientific literature,^* and especially the fine 
arts. Here asceticism descended like a frost on the life 
of "Merrie old England." And not only worldly merri- 
ment felt its effect. The Puritan's ferocious hatred of 
everything which smacked of superstition, of all 
survivals of magical or sacramental salvation, applied 
to the Christmas festivities and the May Pole ^^ and 
all spontaneous religious art. That there was room in 
Holland for a great, often uncouthly realistic art^^ 
proves only how far from completely the authoritarian 
1 68 


Asceticism and the Spirit of Capitalism 

moral discipline of that country was able to counteract 
the influence of the court and the regents (a class of 
rentiers), and also the joy in life of the parvenu bour- 
geoisie, after the short supremacy of the Calvinistic 
theocracy had been transformed into a moderate 
national Church, and with it Calvinism had perceptibly 
lost in its power of ascetic influence.^' 

The theatre was obnoxious to the Puritans,^^ and 
with the strict exclusion of the erotic and of nudity 
from the realm of toleration, a radical view of either 
literature or art could not exist. The conceptions of 
idle talk, of superfluities,^^ and of vain ostentation, all 
designations of an irrational attitude without objective 
purpose, thus not ascetic, and especially not serving the 
glory of God, but of man, were always at hand to serve 
in deciding in favour of sober utility as against any 
artistic tendencies. This was especially true in the 
case of decoration of the person, for instance clothing."^ 
That powerful tendency toward uniformity of life, which 
to-day so immensely aids the capitalistic interest in the 
standardization of production, '^ had its ideal founda- 
tions in the repudiation of all idolatry of the flesh. ""^ 

Of course we must not forget that Puritanism in- 
cluded a world of contradictions, and that the instinc- 
tive sense of eternal greatness in art was certainly 
stronger among its leaders than in the atmosphere 
of the Cavaliers."^ Moreover, a unique genius like 
Rembrandt, however little his conduct may have been 
acceptable to God in the eyes of the Puritans, was very 
strongly influenced in the character of his work by his 
religious environment.''* But that does not alter the 
picture as a whole. In so far as the development of 

N 169 

The Protesta?it Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

the Puritan tradition could, and in part did, lead to 
a powerful spiritual ization of personality, it was a 
decided benefit to literature. But for the most part 
that benefit only accrued to later generations. 

Although we cannot here enter upon a- discussion of 
the influence of Puritanism in all these directions, we 
should call attention to the fact that /the toleration of 
pleasure in cultural goods, which contributed to purely 
aesthetic or athletic enjoyment, certainly always ran up 
against one characteristic limitation: they must not 
cost anything. Man is only a trustee of the goods which 
have come to him through God's grace. He must, like 
the servant in the parable, give an account of every 
penny entrusted to him,"*^ and it is at least hazardous 
to spend any of it for a purpose which does not serve 
the glory of God but only one's own enjoyment.''^ 
What person, who keeps his eyes open, has not met 
representatives of this view-point even in the present P"^^ 
^The_jdeajiJLa_man's duty to his possessions, to which 
Ihe subordinates himself as an obedient steward, or even 
las an acquisitive machine, bears with chilling weight 
on his life. The greater the possessions the heavier, 
if the ascetic attitude toward life stands the test, the 
feeling of responsibility for them, for holding them 
undiminished for the glory of God and increasing them 
Jby restless eftbrt. The origin of this type of life also 
extends in certain roots, like so many aspects of the 
spirit of capitalism, back into the Middle Ages.'^ But 
it was in the ethic of ascetic Protestantism that it first 
found a consistent ethical foundation. Its significance 
f or the develo pm ent of ca pitalisrn is obvious . ' ^ 

This worldly Protestant asceticism, as we may 

Asceticism and the Spirit of Capitalism 

r£capitulatejipJojthjs_point, acted powerfully against 
the spo ntaneous enjoym ent of possessions ; it restricted 

^ nsumption, esp ecially^nuxuries. On the other hand, 
it had the psychological effect of freeing the acquisition 
of goods from the inhibitions of traditionalistic ethics- 
It broke the bonds of the impulse of acquisition in that 
it not only legalized it, but (in the sense discussed) 
looked upon it as directly willed by God. The campaign 
against the temptations of the flesh, and the depend-' 
ence on external things, was, as besides the Puritans 
the great Quaker apologist Barclay expressly says, not 
a struggle against the rational acquisition, but against 

.the irratiTm2ri~use "ofwealth . 

Butlhis irrational usFwas exemplified in the outward 
forms of luxury which their code condemned as idolatry 
of the flesh ,^^ however natural they had appeared to 
the feudal mind. On the other hand, they approved the 
rational and utilitarian uses of wealth which were willed 
by God for the needs of the individual and the com- 
munity. They did not wish to impose mortification^^ 
on the man of wealth, but the use of his means for 
necessary and practical things. The i dea of comfor t \y^ 
characteris tically limits the extent of ethically permis- 
sil)le expenditures. It is naturally no accident that 

'the development of a manner of living consistent with 
that idea may be observed earliest and most clearly 
among the most consistent representatives of this 
whole attitude toward life. Over against the glitter and 
ostentation of feudal magnificence which, resting on 
an unsound economic basis, prefers a sordid elegance 
to a sober simplicity, they set the clean and solid 
comfort of the middle-class home as an ideal. ^'-^ 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

On the side of the production of private wealth, 
asceticism condemned both dishonesty and impulsive 
avarice. What was condemned as covetousness, Mam- 
monism, etc., was the pursuit of riches for their own 
sake. For wealth in itself was a temptation. But here 
asceticism was the power * 'which ever seeks the good 
but ever creates evil" ^^; what was evil in its sense was 
possession and its temptations. For, in conformity with 
the Old Testament and in analogy to the ethical 
valuation of good works, asceticism looked upon the 
pursuit of wealth as an end in itself as highly repre- 
hensible ; but the attainment of it as a fruit of labour 
\ in a calling was a sign of God's blessing. And even 
jjinore important: the religious valuation of restless, 
'7 continuous, systematic work in a worldly calling, as 
the highest means to asceticism, and at the same time 
. the surest and most evident proof of rebirth and 
! genuine faith, must have been the most powerful con- 
1 ceivable lever for the expansion of that attitude toward 
r life which we have here called the spirit of capitalism.^* 
,|**2^When the limitation of consumption is combined 
( \ with this release of acquisitive activity, the inevitable 
' practical result is obvious: accumulation of capital 
through ascetic compulsion to save.®^ The restraints 
which were imposed upon the consumption of wealth 
naturally served to increase it by making possible the 
productive investment of capital. How strong th|s 
influence was is not, unfortunately, susceptible of 
pvart s tatisti cal demonstration. In New England the 
connection is so evident that ft did not escape the eye 
of so discerning a historian as Doyle .^^ But also in 
Holland, which was really only dominated by strict 


Asceticism and the Spirit of Capitalism 

Calvinism for seven years, the greater simplicity of 
life in the more seriously religious circles, in combina- 
tion with great wealth, led to an excessive propensity 
to accumulation.®^ 

That, furthermore, the tendency which has existed 
everywhere and at all times, being quite strong in 
Germany to-day, for middle-class fortunes to be 
absorbed into the nobility, was necessarily checked by 
the Puritan antipathy to the feudal way of life, is 
evident. English Mercantilist writers of the seventeenth 
century attributed the superiority of Dutch capital to 
English to the circumstance that newly acquired wealth 
there did not regularly seek investment in land. Also, 
since it is not simply a question of the purchase of 
land, it did not there seek to transfer itself to feudal 
habits of life, and thereby to remove itself from the 
possibility of capitalistic investment .^^ The high esteem 
for agriculture as a peculiarly important branch of 
activity, also especially consistent with piety, which the 
Puritans shared, applied (for instance in Baxter) not to 
the landlord, but to the yeoman and farmer, in the 
eighteenth century not to the squire, but the rational 
cultivator.®^ Through the whole of English society in 
the time since the seventeenth century goes the conflict 
between the squirearchy, the representatives of "merrie 
old England", and the Puritan circles of widely varying 
social influence. ^^ Both elements, that of an unspoiled 
naive joy of life, and of a strictly regulated, reserved 
self-control, and conventional ethical conduct are even 
to-day combined to form the English national charac- 
ter.^^ Similarly, the early hist ory of the N orth American" 
Col onies is dominated by the sharp cöntrast~oFlEe 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

adventurers, who wanted to set up plantations with the 
labour of indentured servants, and live as feudal lords, 
and the specifically middle-class outlook of the Puritans. ^^ 
As far as the influence of the Puritan outlook ex- 
tended, under all circumstances — and this is, of course, 
much more important than the mere encouragement of 
capital accumulation — it favoured the development of 
a rational bourgeois economic life; it was the most 
important, and above all the only consistent influence 
in the development of that life. It stood at the cradle of 
the modern economic man. 

To be sure, these Puritanical ideals tended to give 
way under excessive pressure from the temptations of 
wealth, as the Puritans themselves knew very well. 
With great regularity we find the most genuine adher- 
ents of Puritanism among the classes which were rising 
from a lowly status, ^^ the small bourgeois and farmers, 
while~the beati possidentes, even among Quakers, are 
often found tending to repudiate the old ideals.^* It 
was the same fate which again and again befell the 
predecessor of this worldly asceticism, the monastic 
asceticism of the Middle Ages. In the latter case, when 
/rational economic activity had worked out its full effects 
by strict regulation of conduct and limitation of con- 
sumption, the wealth accumulated either succumbed 
directly to the nobility, as in the time before the Reforma- 
tion, or monastic discipline threatened to break down, 
an d one of t he numerous reformations became necessary. 

In fact the wlible history of monasticTsm is in a 

certain sense the history of a continual struggle with 

the problem of the secularizing influence of wealth. 

The same is true on a grand scale of the worldly 


Asceticism and the Spirit of Capitalism 

asceticism of Puritanism. The great revival of Method- 
ism, which preceded the expansion of EngHsh industry 
toward the end of the eighteenth century, may well be 
compared with such a monastic reform. We may hence 
quote here a passage^^ from John Wesley himself which 
might well serve as a motto for everything which has been 
said above. For it shows that the leaders of these ascetic 
movements understood the seemingly paradoxical rela- 
tionships which we have here analysed perfectly well, and 
in the same sense that we have given them.^^ He wrote : 

"I fear, wherever riches have increased, the essence' 
of religion has decreased in the same proportion/ 
Therefore I do not see how it is possible, in the nature 
of things, for any revival of true religion to continue 
long. For religion must necessarily produce both 
industry and frugality, and these cannot but produce 
riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger, and 
love of the world in all its branches. How then is it 
possible that Methodism, that is, a religion of the heart, 
though it flourishes now as a green bay tree, should 
continue in this state? For the Methodists in every 
place grow diligent and frugal; consequently they 
increase in goods. Hence they proportionately increase 
in pride, in anger, in the desire of the flesh, the desire 
of the eyes, and the pride of life. So, although the form 
of religion remains, the spirit is swiftly vanishing away. 
Is there no way to prevent this — this continual decay 
of pure religion ? We_9ught^not to prev ent people fro m^ 
being diligent and frugal; we must exhort all Christians 
togain all they can, and to save all they can', that isy inj 
effect f to grow rich.'' ^' 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

There follows the advice that those who gain all they 
can and save all they can should also give all they can, 
so that they will grow in grace and lay up a treasure in 
heaven. It is clear that Wesley here expresses^ even in 
detail, just what we have been trying to-p oint^ut . ^^ 

As Wesley here says, the full economic effect of those 
great religious movements, whose significance for 
economic development lay above ail in their ascetic 
educative influence, generally came only after the peak 
of the purely religious enthusiasm was past. Then the 
intensity of the search for the Kingdom of God com- 
menced gradually to pass over into sober economic 
virtue ; the religious roots died out slowly, giving way 
to utilitarian worldliness. Then, as Dowden puts it, as in 
Robinson Crusoe, the isolated economic man who carries 
on missionary activities on the side ^^ takes the place 
of the lonely spiritual search for the Kingdom of 
Heaven of Bunyan's pilgrim, hurrying through the 
market-place of Vanity. 

When later the principle **to make the most of both 
worlds" became dominant in the end, as Dowden has 
remarked, a good conscience simply became one of the 
means of enjoying a comfortable bourgeois life, as is 
well expressed in the German proverb about the soft 
pillow. What the great religious epoch of the seven- 
teenth century bequeathed to its utilitarian successor 
was, however, above all an amazingly good, we may 
even say a pharisaically good, conscience in the acqui- 
sition of money, so long as it took place legally. Every 
trace of the deplacere vix potest has disappeared. ^^^ 
[ " A specifically bourgeois economic ethic had grown 
up. With the conscio.usness of standing in the fullness 
~ "176 


Asceticism and the Spirit of Capitalism 

/of God's grace and being visibly blessed by Him, the 
'bourgeois business man, as long as he remained within 
the bounds of formal correctness, as long as his moral 
conduct was spotless and the use to which he put his 
wealth was not objectionable, could follow his pecuniary 
interests as he would and feel that he was fulfilling ai 
luty in doing so. The power of religious asceticisnr 
provided Tum in addition with sober, conscientious, and 
unusually industrious workmen, who clung to their 
work as to a life purpose willed by God.^^^ 

Finally, it gave him the comforting assurance that 
the unequal distribution of the goods of this world was 
a special dispensation of Divine Providence, which in 
these differences, as in particular grace, pursued secret 
ends unknown to men.^^^ Calvin himself had made the 
much-quoted statement that only when the people, i.e. 
the mass of labourers and craftsmen, were poor did 
they remain obedient to God.^^^ In the Netherlands 
(Pieter de la Court and others), that had been secularized 
to the effect that the mass of men only labour when 
necessity forces them to do so. This formulation of aj 
leading idea of capitalistic economy later entered into! 
the current theories of the productivity of low wages. 
Here also, with the dying out of the religious root, th^ 
utilitarian interpretation crept in unnoticed, in the line 
of development which we have again and again observed^ 

Mediaeval ethics not only tolerated begging but 
actually glorified it in the mendicant orders. Even 
secular beggars, since they gave the person of means 
opportunity for good works through giving alms, were 
sometimes considered an estate and treated as such. 
Even the Anglican social ethic of the Stuarts was very 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

close to this attitude. It remained for Puritan Ascetic- 
ism to take part in the severe EngHsh Poor ReHef 
Legislation which fundamentally changed the situation. 
And it could do that, because the Protestant sects and 
the strict Puritan communities actually did not know 
any. begging in their own midst. ^^^ 

On the other hand, seen from the side of the workers, 
the Zinzendorf branch of Pietism, for instance, glorified 
the loyal worker who did not seek acquisition, but lived 
according to the apostolic model, and was thus en- 
dowed with the charisma^^^ of the disciples. ^^^ Similar 
ideas had originally been prevalent among the Baptists 
in an even more radical form. 

Now naturally the whole ascetic literature of almost 

all denominations is saturated with the idea that faithful 

labour, even at low wages, on the part of those whom 

life offers no other opportunities, is highly pleasing to 

God. In this respect Protestant Asceticism added in 

pitselF nothing new. But it not only deepened this idea 

most powerfully, it also created the force which was 

alone decisive for its effectiveness: the psychological 

sanction of it through the conception of this labour as 

a calling, as the best, often in the last analysis the only 

means of attaining certainty of grace. ^^^ And on the 

oth^ hamülL legalizedthe expl oita tion of this specific 

willingness to work , ip^ jthat it also interpreted t he 

j employer's business activity as a callin g.^^^ It is obvious 

""how powerfully the exclusive search for the Kingdom 

,,of God only through the fulfilment of duty in the 

/ calling, and the strict asceticism which Church disci- 

l pline naturally imposed, especially on the propertyless 

\ classes, was bound to affect the productivity of labour 


Asceticism and the Spirit of Capitalism 

in the capitalistic sense of the word. The treatment 
of labour' as a calHng became as characteristic of the 
modern worker as the corresponding attitude toward 
acquisition of the business man. It was a perception of 
this situation, new at his time, which caused so able an 
observer as Sir William Petty to attribute the economic 
power of Holland in the seventeenth century to the 
fact that the very numerous dissenters in that country 
(Calvinists and Baptists) "are for the most part thinking, 
sober men, and such as believe that Labour and In- 
dustry is their duty towards God".^^^ 

Calvinism opposed organic social organization in the 
fiscal-monopolistic form which it assumed in Anglican- 
ism under the Stuarts, especially in the conceptions of 
Laud, this alliance of Church and State with the 
monopolists on the basis of a Christian-social ethical 
foundation. Its leaders were universally among the 
most passionate opponents of this type of politically 
privileged commercial, putting-out, and colonial 
capitalism. Over against it they placed the individual- 
istic motives of rational legal acquisition by virtue of 
one's own ability and initiative. And, while the politic- 
ally privileged monopoly industries in England all 
disappeared in short order, this attitude played a large 
and decisive part in the development of the industries 
which grew up in spite of and against the authority 
of the State. 1^^ The Puritans (Prynne, Parker) repudi- 
ated all connection with the large-scale capitalistic 
courtiers and projectors as an ethically suspicious class. 
On the other hand, they took pride in their own 
superior middle-class business morality, which formed 
the true reason for the persecutions to which they were 


The Protestafit Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

subjected on the part of those circles. Defoe proposed 
to win the battle against dissent by boycotting bank 
credit and withdrawing deposits. The difference of the 
two types of capitalistic attitude went to a very large 
extent hand in hand with religious differences. The 
opponents of the Nonconformists, even in the eight- 
eenth century, again and again ridiculed them for 
personifying the spirit of shopkeepers, and for having 
ruined the ideals of old England. Here also lay the 
difference of the Puritan economic ethic from the 
Jewish; and contemporaries (Prynne) knew well that 
the former and not the latter was the bourgeois capital- 
istic ethic. 11^ 

^ One of the fundamental elements of the spirit of 
[modern capitalism, and not only of that but of all 
I modern culture: rational conduct on the basis of the 
idea of the calling, was born — ^that is what this dis- 
cussion has sT5trght^o demonstrate — ^from the spirit 
jof Christian asceticism. One has only to re-read the 
passage from Franklin, quoted at the beginning of this 
essay, in order to see that the essential elements of the 
attitude which was there called the spirit of capitalism 
are the same as what we have just shown to be the 
content of the Puritan worldly asceticism,^^^ only 
without the religious basis, ^^hichby Franklin's time 
had died a wav. The idea that modern "Tabour^iras an 

ascetic character is of course not new. Limitation to 
specialized work, with a renunciation of the Faustian 
universality of man which it involves, is a condition of 
any valuable work in the modern world; hence deeds 
and renunciation inevitably condition each other to- 
day. This fundamentally ascetic trait of middle-class 

Asceticism and the Spirit of Capitalism 

life, if it attempts to be a way of life at all, and not 
simply the absence of any, was what Goethe wanted 
to teach, at the height of his wisdom, in the Wander- 
jähren, and in the end which he gave to the life of his 
' Fatist}^^ For him the realization meant a renunciation, 
' a departure from an age of full and beautiful humanity, 
which can no more be repeated in the course of our 
cultural development than can the flower of the 
Athenian culture of antiquity. 
[ T he Puritan wanted t o work in a calling; :a [£_are 
' _fo£C£djo_do_sa^For when asceticism was carried out of 
monastic cells into everyday life, and began to dominate 
worldly morality, it did its part in building the tremen- 
dous cosmos of the modern economic order. This order 
is now bound to the technical and economic conditions 
of machine production which to-day determine the 
lives of all^ the individuals who are born into this 
mechanism, not only those directly concerned with 
economic acquisition, with irresistible force. Perhaps 
it will so determine them until the last ton of fossilized 
coal is burnt. In Baxter's view the care fo r external 
^oods should only lie on the shoulders^ oFlhe *jäjnt 
lik e a light cloak, which can be thrownaside a t any 
^_ni oment'\^^^ But fate decreed that the c loak should 
_be come an iron cage. 

Since asceticism undertook to remodel the world and 
to work out its ideals in the world, material goods havi 
gained an increasing and finally an inexorable power\ 
over the lives of men as at no previous period in his- 
tory. To-day the spirit of religious asceticism — whether 
.finally, who knows? — has escaped from the cage. But 
victorious capitalism, since it rests on mechanical 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

foundations, needs its support no longer. The rosy 
blush of its laughing heir, the Enlightenment, seems 
also to be irretrievably fading, and the idea_of_duty in 
one's calling prowls about in our lives likejiie- ghost 
ofHdead religious beliefs. Wh ere th e _ fulfilment of t he 
calling cannot directly be related to the highest spiritual 
and cultural values7~br when, on the other hand, it 
need not be felt simpfy as economic compulsion, the 
individual generally abandons the attempt to justify it 
at all. In the field of its highest development, in the 
United States, the pursuit of wealth, stripped of its 
religious and ethical meaning, tends to become asso- 
ciated with purely mundane passions, which often 
actually give it the character of sport .^^^ 

^ No one knows who will live in this cage in the future, 
or whether at the end of this tremendous development 
entirely new prophets will arise, or there will be a 
great rebirth of old ideas and ideals, or, if neither, 
mechanized petrification, embellished with a sort of 
convulsive self-importance. For of the last stage of 
s cultural development, it might well be truly said : 

Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart ; 
this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of 
civilization never before achieved." 

But this brings us to the world of judgments of 
value and of faith, with which this purely historical 
discussion need not be burdened. The next task would 
be rather to show the significance of ascetic rationalism, 
which has only been touched in the foregoing sketch, 
for the content of practical social ethics, thus for 
the types of organization and the functions of social ^ 
groups from the conventicle to the State. Then its 


Asceticism and the Spirit of Capitalism 

relations to humanistic rationalism/^^ its ideals of life 
and cultural influence; further to the development of 
philosophical and scientific empiricism, to technical 
development and to spiritual ideals would have to be 
analysed. Then__ its historic al development from the 
mediaeval beginnings of worldl)^ asceticism to its 
dissoluti on in to pure utilitarianism would have to be 
t raced out throu gh all the areas of ascetic religion. Only 
then could the quantitative cultural significance of 
ascetic Protestantism in its relation to the other plastic 
elements of modern culture be estimated. 

Here we have only attempted to trace the fact and 
the direction of its influence to their motives in one, 
though a very important point. But it would also 
Turther be necessary to investigate how Protestant 
Asceticism was in turn influenced in its development 
and its character by the totality of social conditions, 
especially economic.^^'^ The modern man is in general, 
even with the best will, unable to give religious ideas 
a significance for culture and national character which 
they deserve. But it is, of course, not my aim to sub- 
stitute for a one-sided materialistic an equally one- 
sided spiritualistic causal interpretation of culture and 
of history. Each is equally possible,^i^ but each, if it 
does not serve as the preparation, but as the conclusion 
of an investigation, accomplishes equally little in the 
interest of historical truth .^^^ 




1. Ständestaat. The term refers to the late form taken by feudalism 
in Europe in its transition to absolute monarchy. — ^Translator's Note. 

2. Here, as on some other points, I differ from our honoured 
master, Lujo Brentano (in his work to be cited later). Chiefly in 
regard to terminology, but also on questions of fact. It does not seem 
to me expedient to bring such different things as acquisition of booty 
and acquisition by management of a factory together under the same 
category; still less to designate every tendency to the acquisition of 
money as the spirit of capitalism as against other types of acquisition. 
The second sacrifices all precision of concepts, and the first the 
possibility of clarifying the specific difference between Occidental 
capitalism and other forms. Also in Simmel's Philosophie des Geldes 
money economy and capitalism are too closely identified, to the 
detriment of his concrete analysis. In the writings of Werner Sombart, 
above all in the second edition of his most important work. Der 
moderne Kapitalismus, the differentia specifica of Occidental capitalism 
— at least from the view -point of my problem — the rational organiza- 
tion of labour, is strongly overshadowed by genetic factors which 
have been operative everywhere in the world. 

3. Commenda was a form of mediaeval trading association, entered 
into ad hoc for carrying out one sea voyage. A producer or exporter 
of goods turned them over to another who took them abroad (on a 
ship provided sometimes by one party, sometimes by the other) and 
sold them, receiving a share in the profits. The expenses of the 
voyage were divided between the two in agreed proportion, while 
the original shipper bore the risk. See Weber, "Handelsgesellschaften 
im Mittelalter", Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Sozial- und Wirtschafts- 
geschichte, pp. 323-8. — ^Translator's Note. 

4. The sea loan, used in maritime commerce in the Middle Ages, 
was "a method of insuring against the risks of the sea without violating 
the prohibitions against usury. . . . When certain risky maritime 
ventures were to be undertaken, a certain sum . . . was obtained for 
the cargo belonging to such and such a person or capitalist. If the 
ship was lost, no repayment was exacted by the lender ; if it reached 
port safely, the borrower paid a considerable premium, sometimes 50 per 
cent." Henri See, Modern Capitalism, p. 189. — Translator's Note. 

5. A form of company between the partnership and the limited 
liability corporation. At one of the participants is made liable 
without limit, while the others enjoy limitation of liability to the 
amount of their investment. — Translator's Note. 

o 185 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

6. Naturally the difference cannot be conceived in absolute terms. 
The politically oriented capitalism (above all tax-farming) of Mediter- 
ranean and Oriental antiquity, and even of China and India, gave 
rise to rational, continuous enterprises whose book-keeping — though 
known to us only in pitiful fragments — probably had a rational 
character. Furthermore, the politically oriented adventurers 'capitalism 
has been closely associated with rational bourgeois capitalism in the 
development of modern banks, which, including the Bank of England, 
have tor the most part originated in transactions of a political nature, 
often connected with war. The difference between the characters of 
Paterson, for instance — a typical promoter — and of the members of 
the directorate of the Bank who gave the keynote to its permanent 
policy, and very soon came to be known as the "Puritan usurers of 
Grocers' Hall", is characteristic of it. Similarly, we have the aberra- 
tion of the policy of this most solid bank at the time of the South 
Sea Bubble. Thus the two naturally shade off into each other. But 
the difference is there. The great promoters and financiers have no 
more created the rational organization of labour than — again in 
general and with individual exceptions — those other typical repre- 
sentatives of financial and political capitalism, the Jews. That was 
done, typically, by quite a different set of people. 

7. For Weber's discussion of the ineffectiveness of slave labour, 
especially so far as calculation is concerned, see his essay, "Agrar- 
verhältnisse im Altertum", in the volume Gesammelte Aufsätze zur 
Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte . — Translator's Note. 

8. That is, in the whole series of Aufsätze zur Religionssoziologie , 
not only in the essay here translated. See translator's preface. — 
Translator's Note. 

9 . The remains of my knowledge of Hebrew are also quite inadequate. 

10. I need hardly point out that this does not apply to attempts 
like that of Karl Jasper's (in his hook Psychologie der Weltanschauungen, 
1919), nor to Klages's Charakterologie, and similar studies which 
differ from our own in their point of departure. There is no space 
here for a criticism of them. 

11. The only thing of this kind which Weber ever wrote is the 
section on "Religionssoziologie" in his large work Wirtschaft und 
Gesellschaft. It was left unfinished by him and does not really close 
the gap satisfactorily. — Translator's Note. 

12. Some years ago an eminent psychiatrist expressed the same 
opinion to me. 


I. From the voluminous literature which has grown up around 
this essay I cite only the most comprehensive criticisms, (i) F. 
Rachfahl, "Kalvinismus und Kapitalismus", biternationale Wochen- 
schrift für Wissenschaft, Kunst und Technik (1909), Nos. 39-43. In 



reply, my article: "Antikritisches zum Geist des Kapitalismus," 
Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik (Tübingen), XX, 
1910. Then Rachfahl's reply to that: "Nochmals Kalvinismus und 
Kapitalismus", 1910, Nos. 22-25, of the Internationale Wochenschrift. 
Finally my "Antikritisches Schlusswort", Archiv, XXXI. (Brentano, 
in the criticism presently to be referred to, evidently did not know 
of this last phase of the discussion, as he does not refer to it.) I have 
not incorporated anything in this edition from the somewhat un- 
fruitful polemics against Rachfahl . He is an author whom I otherwise 
admire, but who has in this instance ventured into a field which he 
has not thoroughly mastered . I have only added a few supplementary 
references from my anti -critique, and have attempted, in new passages 
and footnotes, to make impossible any future misunderstanding. 
(2) W. Sombart, in his book Der Bourgeois (Munich and Leipzig, 
191 3, also translated into English under the title The Quintessence of 
Capitalism, London, 1915), to which I shall return in footnotes below. 
Finally (3) Lujo Brentano in Part II of the Appendix to his Munich 
address (in the Academy of Sciences, 191 3) on Die Anfänge des 
modernen Kapitalismus, which was published in 191 6. (Since Weber's 
death Brentano has somewhat expanded these essays and incorporated 
them into his recent book Der wirtschaftende Mensch in der Geschichte. 
— Translator's Note.) I shall also refer to this criticism in special 
footnotes in the proper places. I invite anyone who may be interested 
to convince himself by comparison that I have not in revision left 
out, changed the meaning of, weakened, or added materially different 
statements to, a single sentence of my essay which contained any 
essential point. There was no occasion to do so, and the development 
of my exposition will convince anyone who still doubts. The two 
latter writers engaged in a more bitter quarrel with each other than 
with me. Brentano's criticism of Sombart 's book, Die Juden und das 
Wirtschaftsleben, I consider in many points well founded, but often 
very unjust, even apart from the fact that Brentano does not himself 
seem to understand the real essence of the problem of the Jews 
(which is entirely omitted from this essay, but will be dealt with later 
[in a later section of the Religionssoziologie. — Translator's Note]). 

From theologians I have received numerous valuable suggestions 
in connection with this study. Its reception on their part has been 
in general friendly and impersonal, in spite of wide differences of 
opinion on particular points. This is the more welcome to me since 
I should not have wondered at a certain antipathy to the manner in 
which these matters must necessarily be treated here. "What to a 
theologian is valuable in his religion cannot play a very large part 
in this study. We are concerned with what, from a religious point 
of view, are often quite superficial and unrefined aspects of relligious 
life, but which, and precisely because they were superficial and 
unrefined, have often influenced outward behaviour most profoundy. 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

Another book which, besides containing many other things, is a 
very welcome confirmation of and supplement to this essay in so far 
as it deals with our problem, is the important work of E. Troeltsch, 
Die Soziallehren der christlichen Kirchen und Gruppen (Tübingen, 
1912). It deals with the history of the ethics of Western Christianity 
from a very comprehensive point of view of its own, I here refer the 
reader toitfor general comparison instead of makingrepeated references 
to special points . The author is principally concerned with the doctrines 
of religion, while I am interested rather in their practical results. 

2. The exceptions are explained, not always, but frequently, by 
the fact that the religious leanings of the labouring force of an industry 
are naturally, in the first instance, determined by those of the locality 
in which che industry is situated, or from which its labour is drawn. 
This circumstance often alters the impression given at first glance 
by some statistics of religious adherence, for instance in the Rhine 
provinces. Furthermore, figures can naturally only be conclusive if 
individual specialized occupations are carefully distinguished in them. 
Otherwise very large employers may sometimes be grouped together 
with master craftsmen who work alone, under the category of "pro- 
prietors of enterprises". Above all, the fully developed capitalism of 
the present day, especially so far as the great unskilted lower strata 
of labour are concerned, has become independent of any influence 
which religion may have had in the past. I shall return to this point. 

3. Compare, for instance. Schell, Der Katholizismus als Prinzip 
des Fortschrittes (Würzburg, 1897), p. 31, and V. Hertling, Das 
Prinzip des Katholizismus und die Wissenschaft (Freiburg, 1899), p. 58. 

4. One of my pupils has gone through what is at this time the 
most complete statistical material we possess on this subject : the 
religious statistics of Baden. See Martin Offenbacher, "Konfession 
und soziale Schichtung", Eine Studie über die wirtschaftliche Lage 
der Katholiken und Protestanten i?i Baden (Tübingen und Leipzig, 
1901), Vol. IV, part V, of the Volkswirtschaftliche Abhandlungen der 
badischen Hochschulen. The facts and figures which are used for 
illustration below are all drawn from this study. 

5. For instance, in 1895 in Baden there was taxable capital available 
for the tax on returns from capital : 

Per 1,000 Protestants . . . . . . 954,000 marks 

Per 1,000 Catholics '. . . . . . 589,000 marks 

It is true that the Jews, with over four millions per 1,000, were far 
ahead of the rest. (For details see Offenbacher, op. cit., p. 21.) 

6. On this point compare the whole discussion in Offenbacher's 

7. On this point also Offenbacher brings forward more detailed 
evidence for Baden in his first two chapters. 

8. The population of Baden was composed in 1895 as follows : 


Protestants, 37*0 per cent.; Catholics, 61*3 per cent.; Jewish, 1*5 per 
cent. The students of schools beyond the compulsory public school 
stage were, however, divided as follows (OfFenbacher, p. 16): 




Gymnasien . . 

Realgymnasien . . 

Oberrealschulen . . 


Höhere Bürgerschulen . . 

Per Cent. 


Per Cent. 



Per Cent. 







(In the Gymnasium the main emphasis is on the classics. In the 
Realgymnasium Greek is dropped and Latin reduced in favour of 
modern languages, mathematics and science. The Realschule and Ober- 
realschule are similar to the latter except that Latin is dropped entirely 
in favour of modern languages. See G. E. Bolton, The Secondary 
School System in Germany, New York, 1900. — Translator's Note.) 

The same thing may be observed in Prussia, Bavaria, Würtemberg, 
Alsace-Lorraine, and Hungary (see figures in Offenbacher, pp. 16 ff.). 

9. See the figures in the preceding note, which show that the 
Catholic attendance at secondary schools, which is regularly less 
than the Catholic share of the total population by a third, only exceeds 
this by a few per cent, in the case of the grammar schools (mainly 
in preparation for theological studies). With reference to the subse- 
quent discussion it may further be noted as characteristic that in 
Hungary those affiliated with the Reformed Church exceed even the 
average Protestant record of attendance at secondary schools. (See 
Offenbacher, p. 19, note.) 

10. For the proofs see Offenbacher, p. 54, and the tables at the end 
of his study. 

11. Especially well illustrated by passages in the works of Sir 
William Petty, to be referred to later. 

12. Petty 's reference to the case of Ireland is very simply explained 
by the fact that the Protestants were only involved in the capacity 
of absentee landlords. If he had meant to maintain more he would 
have been wrong, as the situation of the Scotch-Irish shows. The 
typical relationship between Protestantism and capitalism existed in 
Ireland as well as elsewhere. (On the Scotch-Irish see C. A. Hanna, 
The Scotch-Irish, two vols.; Putnam, New York.) 

13. This is not, of course, to deny that the latter facts have had 
exceedingly important consequences. As I shall show later, the fact 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

that many Protestant sects were small and hence homogeneous 
minorities, as were all the strict Calvinists outside of Geneva and 
New England, even where they were in possession of political power, 
was of fundamental significance for the development of their whole 
character, including their manner of participation in economic life. 
The migration of exiles of all the religions of the earth, Indian, 
Arabian, Chinese, Syrian, Phoenician, Greek, Lombard, to other 
countries as bearers of the commercial lore of highly developed 
areas, has been of universal occurrence and has nothing to do with 
our problem. Brentano, in the essay to which I shall often refer, Die 
Anfänge des modernen Kapitalismus, calls to witness his own family. 
But bankers of foreign extraction have existed at all times and in all 
countries as the representatives of commercial experience and con- 
nections. They are not peculiar to modem capitalism, and were looked 
upon with ethical mistrust by the Protestants (see below). The case 
of the Protestant families, such as the Muralts, Pestalozzi, etc., who 
migrated to Zurich from Locarno, was different. They very soon 
became identified with a specifically modern (industrial) type of 
capitalistic development. 

14. Offenbacher, op. cit., p. 58. 

15. Unusually good observations on the characteris'tic peculiarities 
of the different religions in Germany and France, and the relation of 
these differences to other cultural elements in the conflict of nation- 
alities in Alsace are to be found in the fine study of W. Wittich, 
"Deutsche und französische Kultur im Elsass", Illustrierte Elsässische 
Rundschau (1900, also published separately). 

16. This, of course, was true only when some possibility of 
capitalistic development in the area in question was present. 

17. On this point see, for instance, Dupin de St. Andr6, "L'ancienne 
^glise röform^e de Tours. Les membres de I'^glise", Bull, de la soc. 
de I' hist, du Protest., 4, p. 10. Here again one might, especially from 
the Catholic point of view, look upon the desire for emancipation 
from monastic or ecclesiastical control as the dominant motive. But 
against that view stands not only the judgment of contemporaries 
(including Rabelais),* but also, for instance, the qualms of conscience 
of the first national synods of the Huguenots (for instance ist Synod, 
C. partic. qu. 10 in Aymon, Synod. Nat., p. 10), as to whether a 
banker might become an elder of the Church; and in spite of Calvin's 
own definite stand, the repeated discussions in the same bodies of 
the permissibility of taking interest occasioned by the questions 
of ultra-scrupulous members. It is partly explained by the number of 
persons having a direct interest in the question, but at the same time 
the wish to practise usuraria pravitas without the necessity of con- 
fession could not have been alone decisive. The same, see below, is 
true of Holland. Let it be said explicitly that the prohibition of 
interest in the canon law will play no part in this investigation. 



i8. Gothein, Wirtschaftsgeschichte des Schwarzwaldes, I, p. 67. 

19. In connection with this see Sonabart's brief comments {Der 
moderne Kapitalismus, first edition, p. 380). Later, under the influence 
of a study of F. Keller {Unternehmung und Mehrwert, Publications 
of the Goerres-Gesellschaft, XII), which, in spite of many good 
observations (which in this connection, however, are not new), falls 
below the standard of other recent works of Catholic apologetics, 
Sombart, in what is in these parts in my opinion by far the weakest 
of his larger works {Der Bourgeois), has unfortunately maintained a 
completely untenable thesis, to which I shall refer in the proper place. 

20. That the- simple fact of a change of residence is among the 
most effective means of intensifying labour is thoroughly established 
(compare note 13 above). The same Polish girl who at home was not 
to be shaken loose from her traditional laziness by any chance of 
earning money, however tempting, seems to change her entire nature 
and become capable of unlimited accomplishment when she is a 
migratory worker in a foreign country. The same is true of migratory 
Italian labourers. That this is by no means entirely explicable in 
terms of the educative influence of the entrance into a higher cultural 
environment, although this naturally plays a part, is shown by the 
fact that the same thing happens where the type of occupation, as 
in agricultural labour, is exactly the same as at home. Furthermore, 
accommodation in labour barracks, etc., may involve a degradation 
to a standard of living which would never be tolerated at home. The 
simple fact of working in quite different surroundings from those to 
which one is accustomed breaks through the tradition and is the 
educative force. It is hardly necessary to remark how much of 
American economic development is the result of such factors. In 
ancient times the similar significance of the Babylonian exile for the 
Jews is very striking, and the same is true of the Parsees. But for 
the Protestants, as is indicated by the undeniable difference in the 
economic characteristics of the Puritan New England colonies from 
Catholic Maryland, the Episcopal South, and mixed Rhode Island, 
the influence of their religious belief quite evidently plays a part as 
an independent factor. Similarly in India, for instance, with the Jains, 

21. It is well known in most of its forms to be a more or less 
moderated Calvinism or Zwinglianism. 

22. In Hamburg, which is almost entirely Lutheran, the only 
fortune going back to the seventeenth century is that of a well-known 
Reformed family (kindly called to my attention by Professor A. Wahl). 

23. It is thus not new that the existence of this relationship is 
maintained here. Lavelye, Matthew Arnold, and others already per- 
ceived it. What is new, on the contrary, is the quite vmfounded 
denial of it. Our task here is to explain the relation. 

24. Naturally this does not mean that official Pietism, like other 
religious tendencies, did not at a later date, from a patriarchal point 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

of view, oppose certain progressive features of capitalistic develop- 
ment, for instance, the transition from domestic industry to the 
factory system. What a religion has sought after as an ideal, and 
what the actual result of its influence on the lives of its adherents 
has been, must be sharply distinguished, as we shall often see in the 
course of our discussion. On the specific adaptation of Pietists to 
industrial labour, I have given examples from a Westphalian factory 
in my article, "Zur Psychophysik der gewerblichen Arbeit", Archiv 
für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, XXVIII, and at various other 


1 . These passages represent a very brief summary of some aspects 
of Weber's methodological views. At about the same time that he 
wrote this essay he was engaged in a thorough criticism and re- 
valuation of the methods of the Social Sciences, the result of which 
was a point of view in many ways different from the prevailing one, 
especially outside of Germany. In order thoroughly to understand 
the significance of this essay in its wider bearings on Weber's socio- 
logical work as a whole it is necessary to know what his methodological 
aims were. Most of his writings on this subject have been assembled 
since his death (in 1920) in the volume Gesammelte Aufsätze zur 
Wissenschaftslehre . A shorter exposition of the main position is con- 
tained in the opening chapters of Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, Grundriss 
der Sozialökonomik, III. — Translator's Note. 

2. The final passage is from Necessary Hints to Those That Would 
Be Rich (written 1736, W^orks, Sparks edition, II, p. 80), the rest 
from Advice to a Young Tradesman (written 1748, Sparks edition, II, 
pp. 87 ff.). The italics in the text are Franklin's. 

3. Der Amerikamüde (Frankfurt, 1855), well knov^n to be an 
imaginative paraphrase of Lenau's impressions of America. As a 
work of art the book would to-day be somewhat diflBcult to enjoy, 
but it is incomparable as a document of the (now long since blurred- 
over) differences between the German and the American outlook, 
one may even say of the type of spiritual life which, in spite of 
everything, has remained common to all Germans, Catholic and 
Protestant alike, since the German mysticism of the Middle Ages, 
as against the Puritan capitalistic valuation of action. 

4. Sombart has used this quotation as a motto for his section 
dealing with the genesis of capitalism (Der moderne Kapitalismus, 
first edition, I, p. 193. See also p. 390). 

5 . Which quite obviously does not mean either that Jacob Fugger 
was a morally indifferent or an irreligious man, or that Benjamin 
Franklin's ethic is completely covered by the above quotations. It 
scarcely required Brentano's quotations (Die Anfänge des modernen 
Kapitalismus, pp. 150 flF.) to protect this well-known philanthropist 



from the misunderstanding which Brentano seems to attribute to 
me. The problem is just the reverse : how could such a philanthropist 
come to write these particular sentences (the especially characteristic 
form of which Brentano has neglected to reproduce) in the manner of 
a moralist ? 

6. This is the basis of our difference from Sombart in stating the 
problem. Its very considerable practical significance will become clear 
later. In anticipation, however, let it be remarked that Sombart has 
by no means neglected this ethical aspect of the capitalistic entre- 
preneur. But in his view of the problem it appears as a result of 
capitalism, whereas for our purposes we must assume the opposite 
as an hypothesis. A final position can only be taken up at the end 
of the investigation. For Sombart's view see op. cit., pp. 357, 380, 
etc. His reasoning here connects with the brilliant analysis given in 
Simmel's Philosophie des Geldes (final chapter). Of the polemics 
which he has brought forward against me in his Bourgeois I shall come 
to speak later. At this point any thorough discussion must be postponed . 

7. "I grew convinced that truth, sincerity, and integrity in dealings 
between man and man were of the utmost importance to the felicity 
of life; and I formed written resolutions, which still remain in my 
journal book to practise them ever while I lived. Revelation had 
indeed no weight with me as such; but I entertained an opinion that, 
though certain actions might not be bad because they were forbidden 
by it, or good because it commanded them, yet probably these 
actions might be forbidden because they were bad for us, or com- 
manded because they were beneficial to us in their own nature, all 
the circumstances of things considered." Autobiography (ed. F. W. 
Pine, Henry Holt, New York, 1916), p. 112. 

8. "I therefore put myself as much as I could out of sight and 
started it" — that is the project of a library which he had initiated — 
"as a scheme of a number of friends, who had requested me to go 
about and propose it to such as they thought lovers of reading. In 
this way my affair went on smoothly, and I ever after practised it 
on such occasions; and from my frequent successes, can heartily 
recommend it. The present little sacrifice of your vanity will after- 
wards be amply repaid. If it remains awhile uncertain to whom the 
merit belongs, someone more vain than yourself will be encouraged 
to claim it, and then even envy will be disposed to do you justice by 
plucking those assumed feathers and restoring them to their right 
owner." Autobiography, p. 140. 

9. Brentano {op. cit., pp. 125, 127, note i) takes this remark as 
an occasion to criticize the later discussion of "that rationalization and 
discipline" to which worldly asceticism^ has subjected men. That, 

^ This seemingly paradoxical term has been the best translation 
I could find for Weber's innerweltliche Askese, which means asceticism 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

he says, is a rationalization toward an irrational mode of life. He is, 
in fact, quite correct. A thing is never irrational in itself, but only 
from a particular rational point of view. For the unbeliever every 
religious way of life is irrational, for the hedonist every ascetic 
standard, no matter whether, measured with respect to its particular 
basic values, that opposing asceticism is a rationalization. If this essay 
makes any contribution at all, may it be to bring out the complexity 
of the only superficially simple concept of the rational. 

10. In reply to Brentano 's {Die Anfäfige des modernen Kapitalismus, 
pp. 150 ff.) long and somewhat inaccurate apologia for Franklin, 
whose ethical qualities I am supposed to have misunderstood, I refer 
only to this statement, which should, in my opinion, have been 
sufficient to make that apologia superfluous. 

11. The two terms profession and calling I have used in trans- 
lation of the German Beruf, whichever seemed best to fit the particular 
context. Vocation does npt carry the ethical connotation in which 
Weber is interested. It is especially to be remembered that profession 
in this sense is not contrasted with business, but it refers to a par- 
ticular attitude toward one's occupation, no matter what that occupa- 
tion may be. This should become abundantly clear from the whole 
of Weber's argument. — Translator's Note. 

12. I make use of this opportunity to insert a few anti-critical 
remarks in advance of the main argument. Sombart (Bourgeois) 
makes the untenable statement that this ethic of Franklin is a word- 
for-word repetition of some writings of that great and versatile genius 
of the Renaissance, Leon Battista Alberti, who besides theoretical 
treatises on Mathematics, Sculpture, Painting, Architecture, and 
Love (he was personally a woman-hater), wrote a work in four books 
on household management (Delia Famiglia). (Unfortunately, I have 
not at the time of writing been able to procure the edition of Mancini, 
but only the older one of Bonucci.) The passage from Franklin is 
printed above word for word. Where then are corresponding passages 
to be found in Alberti 's work, especially the maxim "time is money", 
which stands at the head, and the exhortations which follow it? The 
only passage which, so far as I know, bears the slightest resemblance 
to it is found towards the end of the first book of Delia Famiglia 
(ed. Bonucci, II, p. 353), where Alberti speaks in very general terms 
of money as the nervus rerum of the household, which must hence 

practised within the world as contrasted with ausserweltliche Askese, 
which withdraws from the world (for instance into a monastery). Their 
precise meaning will appear in the course of Weber's discussion. It 
is one of the prime points of his essay that asceticism does not need 
to flee from the world to be ascetic. I shall consistently employ the 
terms worldly and otherworldly to denote the contrast between the 
two kinds of asceticism. — Translator's Note. 


be handled with special care, just as Cato spoke in De Re Rustica. 
To treat Alberti, who was very proud of his descent from one of 
the most distinguished cavalier families of Florence (Nobilissimi 
Cavalieri,- op. cit., pp. 213, 228, 247, etc.), as a man of mongrel blood 
who was filled with envy for the noble families because his illegitimate 
birth, which was not in the least socially disqualifying, excluded 
him as a bourgeois from association with the nobility, is quite in- 
correct. It is true that the recommendation of large enterprises as 
alone worthy of a nobile e onesta famiglia and a libero e nobile animo, 
and as costing less labour is characteristic of Alberti (p. 209 ; compare 
Del governo della Famiglia, IV, p. 55, as well as p. 116 in the edition 
for the Pandolfini). Hence the best thing is a putting-out business 
for wool and silk. Also an ordered and painstaking regulation of his 
household, i.e. the limiting of expenditure to income. This is the 
santa masserizia, which is thus primarily a principle of maintenance, 
a given standard of life, and not of acquisition (as no one should have 
understood better than Sombart). Similarly, in the discussion of the 
nature of money, his concern is with the management of consumption 
funds (money or /)055e55Jom'), not with that of capital ; all that is clear 
from the expression of it which is put into the mouth of Gianozzo. 
He recommends, as protection against the uncertainty of for tuna, 
early habituation to continuous activity, which is also (pp. 73-4) 
alone healthy in the long run, in cose niagnifiche e ample, and avoidance 
of laziness, which always endangers the maintenance of one's position 
in the world. Hence a careful study of a suitable trade in case of a 
change of fortune, but every opera mercenaria is unsuitable {op. cit., 
I, p. 209). His idea of tranquillita dell' animo and his strong tendency 
toward the Epicurean Xdds ßiiboa; (vivere a shstesso, p. 262) ; especially 
his dislike of any office (p. 258) as a source of unrest, of making 
enemies, and of becoming involved in dishonourable dealings; the 
ideal of life in a country villa; his nourishment of vanity through 
the thought of his ancestors ; and his treatment of the honour of the 
family (which on that account should keep its fortune together in the 
Florentine manner and not divide it up) as a decisive standard and 
ideal — all these things would in the eyes of every Puritan have been 
sinful idolatry of the flesh, and in those of Benjamin Franklin the 
expression of incomprehensible aristocratic nonsense. Note, further, 
the very high opinion of literary things (for the industria is applied 
principally to literary and scientific work), which is really most 
worthy of a man's efforts. And the expression of the masserizia, in 
the sense of "rational conduct of the household" as the means of 
living independently of others and avoiding destitution, is in general 
put only in the mouth of the illiterate Gianozzo as of equal value. 
Thus the origin of this concept, which comes (see below) from monastic 
ethics, is traced back to an old priest (p. 249). 

Now compare all this with the ethic and manner of life of Benjamin 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

Franklin, and especially of his Puritan ancestors; the works of the 
Renaissance litterateur addressing himself to the humanistic aris- 
tocracy, with Franklin's works addressed to the masses of the lower 
middle class (he especially mentions clerks) and with the tracts and 
sermons of the Puritans, in order to comprehend the depth of the 
difference . The economic rationalism of Alberti , everywhere supported 
by references to ancient authors, is most clearly related to the treat- 
ment of economic problems in the works of Xenophon (whom he 
did not know), of Cato, Varro, and Columella (all of whom he quotes), 
except that especially in Cato and Varro, acquisition as such stands 
in the foreground in a different way from that to be found in Alberti. 
Furthermore, the very occasional comments of Alberti on the use of 
t\\e. fattori, their division of labour and discipline, on the unreliability 
of the peasants, etc., really sound as if Cato's homely wisdom were 
taken from the field of the ancient slave-using household and applied 
to that of free labour in domestic industry and the metayer system. 
When Sombart (whose reference to the Stoic ethic is quite mis- 
leading) sees economic rationalism as "developed to its farthest 
conclusions" as early as Cato, he is, with a correct interpretation, not 
entirely wrong. It is possible to unite the diligens pater familias of 
the Romans with the ideal of the massajo of Alberti under the same 
category. It is above all characteristic for Cato that a landed estate 
is valued and judged as an object for the investment of consumption 
funds. The concept of industria, on the other hand, is differently 
coloured on account of Christian influence. And there is just the 
difference. In the conception of industria, which comes from monastic 
asceticism and which was developed by monastic writers, lies the 
seed of an ethos which was fully developed later in the Protestant 
worldly asceticism. Hence, as we shall often point out, the relationship 
of the two, which, however, is less close to the official Church doctrine 
of St. Thomas than to the Florentire and Siennese mendicant- 
moralists. In Cato and also in Alberti 's own writings this ethos is 
lacking; for both it is a matter of worldly wisdom, not of ethic. In 
Franklin there is also a utilitarian strain. But the ethical quality of 
the sermon to young business men is impossible to mistake, and 
that is the characteristic thing. A lack of care in the handling of 
money means to him that one so to speak murders capital embryos, 
and hence it is an ethical defect. 

An inner relationship of the two (Alberti and Franklin) exists in 
fact only in so far as Alberti, whom Sombart calls pious, but who 
actually, although he took the sacraments and held a Roman benefice, 
like so many humanists, did not himself (except for two quite colourless 
passages) in any way make use of religious motives as a justification 
of the manner of life he recommended, had not yet, Franklin on the 
other hand no longer, related his recommendation of economy to 
religious conceptions. Utilitarianism, in Alberti's preference for 




wool and silk manufacture, also the mercantilist social utilitarianism 
"that many people should be given employment" (see Alberti, op. 
cit., p. 292), is in this field at least formally the sole justification for 
the one as for the other. Alberti 's discussions of this subject form an 
excellent example of the sort of economic rationalism which really 
existed as a reflection of economic conditions, in the work of authors 
interested purely in "the thing for its own sake" everywhere and at 
all times ; in the Chinese classicism and in Greece and Rome no less 
than in the Renaissance and the age of the-.Enlightenment. There is 
no doubt that just as in ancient times with Cato, Varro, and Columella, 
also here with Alberti and others of the same type, especially in the 
doctrine of industria, a sort of economic rationality is highly developed. 
But how can anyone believe that such a literary theory could develop 
into a revolutionary force at all comparable to the way in which a 
religious belief was able to set the sanctions of salvation and damnation 
on the fulfillment of a particular (in this case methodically rationalized) 
manner of life? What, as compared with it, a really religiously 
oriented rationalization of conduct looks like, may be seen, outside 
of the Puritans of all denominations, in the cases of the Jains, the 
Jews, certain ascetic sects of the Middle Ages, the Bohemian Brothers 
(an offshoot of the Hussite movement), the Skoptsi and Stundists in 
Russia, and numerous monastic orders, however much all these may 
differ from each other. 

The essential point of the difference is (to anticipate) that an ethic 
based on religion places certain psychological sanctions (not of an 
economic character) on the maintenance of the attitude prescribed 
by it, sanctions which, so long as the religious belief remains alive, 
are highly effective, and which mere worldly wisdom like that of 
Alberti does not have at its disposal. Only in so far as these sanctions 
work, and, above all, in the direction in which they work, which is 
often very different from the doctrine of the theologians, does such 
an ethic gain an independent influence on the conduct of life and 
thus on the economic order. This is, to speak frankly, the point of this 
whole essay, which I had not expected to find so completely overlooked. 

Later on I shall come to speak of the theological moralists of the 
late Middle Ages, who were relatively friendly to capital (especially 
Anthony of Florence and Bernhard of Siena), and whom Sombart 
has also seriously misinterpreted. In any case Alberti did not belong 
to that group. Only the concept of industria did he take from monastic 
lines of thought, no matter through what intermediate links. Alberti, 
Pandolfini, and their kind are representatives of that attitude which, 
in spite of all its outward obedience, was inwardly already enianci- 
pated from the tradition of the Church. With all its resemblance to 
the current Christian ethic, it was to a large extent of the antique 
pagan character, which Brentano thinks I have ignored in its 
significance for the development of modern economic thought (and 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

also modern economic policy). That I do not deal with its influence 
here is quite true. It would be out of place in a study of the Protestant 
ethic and the spirit of capitalism. But, as will appear in a different 
connection, far from denying its significance, I have been and am 
for good reasons of the opinion that its sphere and direction of 
influence were entirely different from those of the Protestant ethic 
(of which the spiritual ancestry, of no small practical importance, lies 
in the sects and in the ethics of Wyclif and Hus). It was not the mode 
of life of the rising bourgeoisie which was influenced by this other 
attitude, but the policy of statesmen and princes; and these two 
partly, but by no means always, convergent lines of development 
should for purposes of analysis be kept perfectly distinct. So far as 
Franklin is concerned, his tracts of advice to business men, at present 
used for school reading in America, belong in fact to a category of 
works which have influenced practical life, far more than Alberti's 
large book, which hardly became known outside of learned circles. 
But I have expressly denoted him as a man who stood beyond the 
direct influence of the Puritan view of life, which had paled con- 
siderably in the meantime, just as the whole English enlightenment, 
the relations of which to Puritanism have often been set forth. 

13. Unfortunately Brentano {op. cit.) has throvvn every kind of 
struggle for gain, whether peaceful or warlike, into one pot, and has 
then set up as the specific criterion of capitalistic (as contrasted, for 
instance, with feudal) profit-seeking, its acquisitiveness of money 
(instead of land). Any further differentiation, which alone could lead 
to a clear conception, he has not only refused to make, but has made 
against the concept of the spirit of (modern) capitalism which we have 
formed for our purposes, the (to me) incomprehensible objection that 
it already includes in its assumptions what is supposed to be proved. 

14. Compare the, in every respect, excellent observations of Som- 
bart, Die deutsche Volkswirtschaft im igten Jahrhundert, p. 123. In 
general I do not need specially to point out, although the following 
studies go back in their most important points of view to much older 
work, how much they owe in their development to the mere existence 
of Sombart's important works, with their pointed formulations 
and this even, perhaps especially, where they take a different road. 
Even those who feel themselves continually and decisively disagreeing 
with Sombart's views, and who reject many of his theses, have the 
duty to do so only after a thorough study of his work. 

15. Of course we cannot here enter into the question of where these 
limits lie, nor can we evaluate the familiar theory of the relation 
between high wages and the high productivity of labour which was 
first suggested by Brassey, formulated and maintained theoretically 
by Brentano, and both historically and theoretically by Schulze- 
Gaevemitz. The discussion was again opened by Hasbach's pene- 
trating studies {Schmollers Jahrbuch, 1903, pp. 385-91 and 417 ff.), 



and is not yet finally settled. For us it is here sufficient to assent to 
the fact which is not, and cannot be, doubted by anyone, that low 
wages and high profits, low wages and favourable opportunities for 
industrial.development, are at least not simply identical, that generally 
speaking training for capitalistic culture, and with it the possibility of 
capitalism as an economic system, are not brought about simply through 
mechanical financial operations. All examples are purely illustrative, 

1 6. It must be remembered that this was written twenty-five 
years ago, when the above statement was by no means the common- 
place that it is now, even among economists, to say nothing of 
business men. — Translator's Note. 

17. The establishment even of capitalistic industries has hence 
often not been possible without large migratory movements from 
areas of older culture. However correct Sombart's remarks on the 
difference between the personal skill and trade secrets of the handi- 
craftsman and the scientific, objective modern technique may be, at 
the time of the rise of capitalism the difference hardly existed. In 
fact the, so to speak, ethical qualities of the capitalistic workman (and 
to a certain extent also of the entrepreneur) often had a higher scarcity 
value than the skill of the craftsman, crystallized in traditions hundreds 
of years old. And even present-day industry is not yet by any means 
entirely independent in its choice of location of such qualities of 
the population, acquired by long-standing tradition and education in 
intensive labour. It is congenial to the scientific prejudices of to-day, 
when such a dependence is observed to ascribe it to congenital racial 
qualities rather than to tradition and education, in my opinion with 
very doubtful validity. 

18. See my "Zur Psychophysik der gewerblichen Arbeit", Archiv 
für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, XXVIII. 

19. The foregoing observations might be misunderstood. The 
tendency of a well-known type of business man to use the belief 
that "religion must be maintained for the people" for his own 
purpose, and the earlier not uncommon willingness of large numbers, 
especially of the Lutheran clergy, from a general sympathy with 
authority, to offer themselves as black police when they wished to 
brand the strike as sin and trade unions as furtherers of cupidity, all 
these are things with which our present problem has nothing to do. 
The factors discussed in the text do not concern occasional but 
very common facts, which, as we shall see, continually recur in a 
typical manner. 

20. Der moderne Kapitalismus, first edition, I, p. 62. 

21. Ibid., p. 195. 

22. Naturally that of the modern rational enterprise peculiar to 
the Occident, not of the sort of capitalism spread over the world for 
three thousand years, from China, India, Babylon, Greece, Rome, 
Florence, to the present, carried on by usurers, military contractors 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

traders in offices, tax-farmers, large merchants, and financial mag- 
nates. See the Introduction. 

23. The assumption is thus by no means justified a priori, that is 
all I wish to bring out here, that on the one hand the technique of 
the capitalistic enterprise, and on the other the spirit of professional 
work which gives to capitalism its expansive energy, must have had 
their original roots in the same social classes. Similarly with the social 
relationships of religious beliefs. Calvinism was historically one of 
the agents of education in the spirit of capitalism. But in the Nether- 
lands, the large moneyed interests were, for reasons which will be 
discussed later, not predominately adherents of strict Calvinism, but 
Arminians. The rising middle and small bourgeoisie, from which 
entrepreneurs were principally recruited, were for the most part 
here and elsewhere typical representatives both of capitalistic ethics 
and of Calvinistic religion. But that fits in very well with our present 
thesis: there were at all times large bankers and merchants. But a 
rational capitalistic organization of industrial labour was never known 
until the transition from the Middle Ages to modern times took place. 

24. On this point see the good Zurich dissertation of J. Maliniak 


25. The following picture has been put together as an ideal type 
from conditions found in different industrial branches and at different 
places. For the purposes of illustration which it here serves, it is of 
course of no consequence that the process has not in any one of the 
examples we have in mind taken place in precisely the manner we 
have described. 

26. For this reason, among others, it is not by chance that this 
first period of incipient (economic) rationalism in German industry 
was accompanied by certain other phenomena, for instance the 
catastrophic degradation of taste in the style of articles of everyday use . 

27. This is not to be understood as a claim that changes in the 
supply of the precious metals are of no economic importance. 

28. This is only meant to refer to the type of entrepreneur (busmess 
man) whom we are making the object of our study, not any empirical 
average type. On the concept of the ideal type see my discussion in 
the Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, XIX, No. i. 
(Republished since Weber's death in the Gesammelte Aufsätze zur 
Wissenschaftslehre . The concept was first thoroughly developed by 
Weber himself in these essays, and is likely to be unfamiliar to non- 
German reader-;. It is one of the most important aspects of Weber's 
methodological work, referred toin a noteabove. — Translator's Note.) 

29. This is perhaps the most appropriate place to make a few 
remarks concerning the essay of F. Keller, already referred to 
(volume 12 of the publications of the Görres-Gesellschaft), and 
Sombart's observations {Der Bourgeois) in following it up, so far as 
they are relevant in the present context. That an author should 



criticize a study in which the canonical prohibition of interest (except 
in one incidental remark which has no connection with the general 
argument) is not even mentioned, on the assumption that this pro- 
hibition of interest, which has a parallel in almost every religious 
ethic in the world, is taken to be the decisive criterion of the difference 
between the Catholic and Protestant ethics, is almost inconceivable. 
One should really only criticize things which one has read, or the argu- 
ment of which, if read, one has not already forgotten. The campaign 
against usurarta pravitas runs through both the Huguenot and the 
Dutch Church history of the sixteenth century; Lombards, i.e. 
bankers, were by virtue of that fact alone often excluded from com- 
munion fsee Chap. I, note 17). The more liberal attitude of Calvin 
(which did not, however, prevent the inclusion of regulations against 
usury in the first plan of the ordinances) did not gain a definite 
victory until Salmasius. Hence the difference did not lie at this 
point ; quite the contrary. But still worse are the author's own argu- 
ments on this point. Compared to the works of Funck and other 
Catholic scholars (whjch he has not, in my opinion, taken as fully 
into consideration as they desers'e), and the investigations of Ende- 
mann, which, however obsolete in certain points to-day, are still 
fundamental, they make a painful impression of superficiality. To be 
sure , Keller has abstained from such excesses as the remarks of Som- 
bart (Der Bourgeois, p. 321) that one noticed how the "pious gentle- 
men" (Bernard of Siena and Anthony of Florence) "wished to excite 
the spirit of enterprise by every possible means", that is, since they, 
just like nearly everyone else concerned with the prohibition of 
interest, interpreted it in such a way as to exempt what we should 
call the productive investment of capital. That Sombart, on the one 
hand, places the Romans among the heroic peoples, and on the 
other, what is for his work as a whole an impossible contradiction, 
considers economic rationalism to have been developed to its final 
consequences in Cato (p. 267), may be mentioned by the way as a 
symptom that this is a book with a thesis in the worst sense. 

He has also completely misrepresented the significance of the 
prohibition of interest. This cannot be set forth here in detail. At 
one time it was often exaggerated, then strongly underestimated, and 
now, in an era which produces Catholic millionaires as well as 
Protestant, has been turned upside down for apologetic purposes. 
As is well known, it was not, in spite of Biblical authority, abolished 
until the last century by order of the Congregatio S. Officii, and then 
only temporum ratione habita and indirectly, namely, by forbidding 
confessors to worry their charges by questions about usur aria pravitas, 
even though no claim to obedience was given up in case it should 
be restored. Anyone who has made a thorough study of the extremely 
complicated history of the doctrine cannot claim, considering the 
endless controversies over, for instance, the justification of the 

p 201 

The Protestafit Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

purchase of bonds, the discounting of notes and various other contracts 
(and above all considering the order of the Congregatio S. Officii^ 
mentioned above, concerning a municipal loan), that the prohibition 
of interest was only intended to apply to emergency loans, nor that 
it had the intention of preserving capital, or that it was even an aid 
to capitalistic enterprise (p. 25). The truth is that the Church came 
to reconsider the prohibition of interest comparatively late. At the 
time when this happened the forms of purely business investment 
were not loans at fixed interest rate, but th&fcenus nauticum, commenda, 
societas maris, and the dare ad proficuum de mart (a loan in which the 
shares of gain and loss were adjusted according to degrees of risk), 
and were, considering the character of the return on loans to pro- 
ductive enterprise, necessarily of that sort. These were not (or only 
according to a few rigorous canonists) held to fall under the ban, 
but when investment at a definite rate of interest and discounting 
became possible and customary, the first sort of loans also encountered 
very troublesome difficulties from the prohibition, which led to various 
drastic measures of the merchant guilds (black lists). But the treat- 
ment of usury on the pari of the canonists was generally purely legal 
and formal, and was certainly free from any such tendency to protect 
capital as Keller ascribes to it. Finally, in so far as any attitude towards 
capitalism as such can be ascertained, the decisive factors were: on 
the one hand, a traditional, mostly inarticulate hostility towards the 
growing power of capital which was impersonal, and hence not 
readily amenable to ethical control (as it is still reflected in Luther's 
pronouncements about the Fuggers and about the banking business) ; 
on the other hand, the necessity of accommodation to practical needs. 
But we cannot discuss this, for, as has been said, the prohibition of 
usury and its fate can have at most a symptomatic significance for 
us, and that only to a limited degree. 

The economic ethic of the Scotists, and especially of certain 
mendicant theologians of the fourteenth century, above all Bernhard 
of Siena and Anthony of Florence, that is monks with a specifically 
rational type of asceticism, undoubtedly deserves a separate treatment, 
and cannot be disposed of incidentally in our discussion. Otherwise 
I should be forced here, in reply to criticism, to anticipate what I 
have to say in my discussion of the economic ethics of Catholicism 
in its positive relations to capitalism. These authors attempt, and in 
that anticipate some of the Jesuits, to present the profit of the 
merchant as a reward for his indiistria, and thus ethically to justify it. 
(Of course, even Keller cannot claim more.) 

The concept and the approval of industria come, of course, in the 
last analysis from monastic asceticism, probably also from the idea 
of masserizia, which Alberti, as he himself says through the mouth 
of Gianozzo, takes over from clerical sources. We shall later speak 
more fully of the sense in which the monastic ethics is a forerunner 



of the worldly ascetic denominations of Protestantism. In Greece, 
among the Cynics, as shown by late-Hellenic tombstone inscriptions, 
and, with an entirely different background, in Egypt, there were 
suggestions of similar ideas. But what is for us the most important 
thing is entirely lacking both here and in the case of Alberti. As we 
shall see later, the characteristic Protestant conception of the proof 
of one's own salvation, the certitudo salutis in a calling, provided the 
psychological sanctions which this religious belief put behind the 
industria. But that Catholicism could not supply, because its means 
to salvation were different. In effect these authors are concerned 
with an ethical doctrine, not with motives to practical action, de- 
pendent on the desire for salvation. Furthermore, they are, as is very 
easy to see, concerned with concessions to practical necessity, not, as 
was worldly asceticism, with deductions from fundamental religious 
postulates. (Incidentally, Anthony and Bernhard have long ago been 
better dealt with than by Keller.) And even these concessions have 
remained an object of controversy down to the present. Nevertheless 
the significance of these monastic ethical conceptions as symptoms 
is by no means small. 

But the real roots of the religious ethics which led the way to the 
modern conception of a calling lay in the sects and the heterodox 
movements, above all in Wyclif; although Brodnitz (Etiglische Wirt- 
schaftsgeschichte), who thinks his influence was so great that Puritanism 
found nothing left for it to do, greatly overestimates his significance. 
All that cannot be gone into here. For here we can only discuss in- 
cidentally whether and to what extent the Christian ethic of the Middle 
Ages had in fact already prepared the way for the spirit of capitalism. 

30. The words /DjOev äTTeXviQovTeg (Luke vi. 35) and the translation 
of the Vulgate, nihil inde sperantes, are thought (according to A. 
Merx) to be a corruption of nr]6eva dTTeATTL^ovTsg (or meminem des- 
perantes), and thus to command the granting of loans to all brothers, 
including the poor, without saying anything at all about interest. 
The passage Deo placere vix potest is now thought to be of Arian 
origin (which, if true, makes no difference to our contentions). 

3 1 . How a compromise with the prohibition of usury was achieved 
is shown, for example, in Book I, chapter 65, of the statutes of the 
Arte di Calimala (at present I have only the Italian edition in Emiliani- 
Guidici, Stor. dei Com. Ital., Ill, p. 246). "Procurino i consoli 
con quelli frate, che parrä loro, che perdono si faccia e come fare 
si possa il meglio per I'amore di ciascuno, del dono, merito o guider- 
dono, ovvero Interesse per I'anno presente e secondo che altra volta 
fatto fue." It is thus a way for the guild to secure exemption for its 
members on account of their official positions, without defiance of 
authority. The suggestions immediately following, as well as the 
immediately preceding idea to book all interest and profits as gifts, 
are very characteristic of the amoral attitude towards profits on 


The Protjstant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

capital. To the present stock exchange black list against brokers 
who hold back the difference between top price and actual selling 
price, often corresponded the outcry against those who pleaded 
before the ecclesiastical court with the exceptio usiirarice pravitatis. 


I. Of the ancient languages only Hebrew has any similar concept. 
Most of all in the word '"'?'*f9' It is used for sacerdotal funntions 
(Exod. XXXV. 2t; Neh. xi. 22; i Chron. ix. 13; xxiii. 4; xxvi. 30), 
for business in the service of the king (especially i Sam. viii. 16; 
I Chron. iv. 23; xxix. 6), for the service of a royal official (Esther iii. 
9; ix. 3), of a superintendant of labour (2 Kings xii. 12), of a slave 
(Gen. xxxix. 1 1), of labour in the fields (i Chron. xxvii. 26), of crafts- 
men (Exod. xxxi. 5; XXXV. 21; Kings vii. 14), for traders (Psa. cvii. 
23), and for worldly activity of any kind in the passage, Sirach xi. 20, 
to be discussed later. The word is derived from the root "^X?, to 
send, thus meaning originally a task. That it originated in the ideas 
current in Solomon's bureaucratic kingdom of serfs (Fronstaat), 
built up as it was according to the Egyptian model, seems evident 
from the above references. In meaning, however, as I learn from 
A. Merx, this root concept had become lost even in antiquity. The 
word came to be used for any sort of labour, and in fact became fully 
as colourless as the German Beruf, with which it shared the fate 
of being used primarily for mental and not manual functions. 
The expression (pn), assignment, task, lesson, which also occurs in 
Sirach xi. 20, and is translated in the Septuagint with öiaOi^Krj, is 
also derived from the terminology of the servile bureaucratic regime 
of the time, as is Ql^""*?"! (Exod. v. 13, cf. Exod. v. 14), where the 
Septuagint also uses öiaOi^Krj for task. In Sirach xliii. 10 it is rendered 
in the Septuagint with Kpi/na. In Sirach xi. 20 it is evidently used to 
signify the fulfillment of God's commandments, being thus related 
to our calling. On this passage in Jesus Sirach reference may here 
be made to Smend's well-known book on Jesus Sirach, and for the 
words öiaOi'jKi], epyov, v6i>og, to his Index zur Weisheit des Jesus 
Sirach (Berlin, 1907). As is well known, the Hebrew text of the 
Book of. Sirach was lost, but has been rediscovered by Schechter, 
and in part supplemented by quotations from the Talmud. Luther 
did not possess it, and these two Hebrew concepts could not have 
had any influence on his use of language. (See below on Prov. xxii. 29.) 

In Greek there is no term corresponding in ethical connotation to 
the German or English words at all. Where Luther, quite in the 
spirit of the modern usage (see below), translates Jesus Sirach xi. 20 
and 21, bleibe in deinem Beruf, the Septuagint has at one point epyov, 
at the other, which however seems to be an entirely corrupt passage, 


vovoQ (the Hebrew original speaks of the shining of divine help!). 
Otherwise in antiquity to Ttpoai^Kox-xo is used in the general sense of 
duties. In the works of the Stoics Kafiarog occasionally carries similar 
connotations, though its linguistic source is indifferent (called to my 
attention by A. Dieterich). All other expressions (such as rd^ic, 
etc.) have no ethical implications. 

In Latin what we translate as calling, a man's sustained activity 
under the division of labour, which is thus (normally) his source of 
income and in the long run the economic basis of his existence, is, 
aside from the colourless opus, expressed with an ethical content, at 
least similar to that of the German word, either by officium (from 
opificium, which was originally ethically colourless, but later, as 
especially in Seneca de benef, IV, p. i8, came to mean Beruf); or by 
munus, derived from the compulsory obligations of the old civic 
community; or finally by professio. This last word was also charac- 
teristically used in this sense for public obligations, probably being 
derived from the old tax declarations of the citizens. But later it 
came to be applied in the special modem sense of the liberal pro- 
fessions (as in professio bene dicendi), and in this narrower meaning 
had a significance in every way similar to the German Beruf, even in 
the more spiritual sense of the word, as when Cicero says of someone 
"non intelligit quid profiteatur", in the sense of "he does not know 
his real profession". The only difference is that it is, of course, 
definitely secular without any religious connotation. That is even 
more true of ars, which in Imperial times was used for handicraft. 
The Vulgate translates the above passages from Jesus Sirach, at one 
point with opus, the other (verse 21) with locus, which in this case 
means something like social station. The addition of mandaturatn 
tuorum comes from the ascetic Jerome, as Brentano quite rightly 
remarks, without, however, here or elsewhere, calling attention to the 
fact that this was characteristic of precisely the ascetic use of the 
term, before the Reformation in an otherworldly, afterwards in a 
worldly, sense. It is furthermore uncertain from what text Jerome's 
translation was made. An influence of the old liturgical meaning of 
'^S**^^ does not seem to be impossible. 

In the Romance languages only the Spanish t^ocaaon in the sense 
of an inner call to something, from the analogy of a derical oflSce, 
has a connotation partly corresponding to that of the German word, 
but it is never used to mean calling in the external sense. In the 
Romance Bible translations the Spanish vocacion, the Italian vocazione 
and chiamatnento, which, otherwise have a meaning partly correspond- 
ing to the Lutheran and Calvinistic usage to be discussed presently, 
are used only to translate the kXtjok; of the New Testament, the call 
of the Gospel to eternal salvation, which in the Vulgate is vocatio. 
Strange to say, Brentano, op. cit., maintains that this fact, which I 
have myself adduced to defend my view, is evidenced for the existence 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

of the concept of the calling in the sense which it had later, before 
the Reformation. But it is nothing of the kind. /cAj/atg had to be 
translated by vocatio. But where and when in the Middle Ages was 
it used in our sense? The fact of this translation, and in spite of it, 
the lack of any application of the word to worldly callings is what is 
decisive. Chiamamento is used in this manner along with vocazione in 
the Italian Bible translation of the fifteenth century, which is printed 
in the Collezione di opere inedite e rare (Bologna, 1887), while the 
modern Italian translations use the latter alone. On the other hand, 
the words used in the Romance languages for calling in the external 
worldly sense of regular acquisitive activity carry, as appears from 
all the dictionaries and from a report of my friend Professor Baist 
(of Freiburg), no religious connotation whatever. This is so no 
matter whether they are derived from ministerium or officium, which 
originally had a certain religious colouring, or from ars, professio, and 
implicare (impeigo), from which it has been entirely absent from the 
beginning. The passages in Jesus Sirach mentioned above, where 
Luther used Beruf, are .translated: in French, v. 20, office; v. 21, 
labeur (Calvinistic translation); Spanish, v. 20, obra; v. 21, lugar 
(following the Vulgate); recent translations, posto (Protestant). The 
Protestants of the Latin countries, since they were minorities, did not 
exercise, possibly without even making the attempt, such a creative 
influence over their respective languages as Luther did over the still 
less highly rationalized (in an academic sense) German official language. 

2. On the other hand, the Augsburg Confession only contains the 
idea implicitly and but partially developed. Article XVI (ed. by 
Kolde, p. 43) teaches: "Meanwhile it (the Gospel) does not dissolve 
the ties of civil or domestic economy, but strongly enjoins us to 
maintain them as ordinances of God and in such ordinances {ein 
jeder nach seinem Beruf) to exercise charity." (Translated by Rev. 
W. H. Teale, Leeds, 1842.) 

(In Latin it is only "et in talibus ordinationibus exercere cari- 
tatem". The English is evidently translated directly from the Latin, 
and does not contain the idea which came into the German version. — 
Translator's Note.) 

The conclusion drawn, that one must obey authority, shows that 
here Beruf is thought of, at least primarily, as an objective order in 
the sense of the passage in i Cor. vii. 20. 

And Article XXVII (Kolde, p. 83) speaks of Beruf (Latin in voca- 
tione sua) only in connection with estates ordained by God: clergy, 
magistrates, princes, lords, etc. But even this is true only of the 
German version of the Konkor dienbuch, while in the German Ed. 
princeps the sentence is left out. 

Only in Article XXVI (Kolde, p. 81) is the word used in a sense 
^yhich at least includes our present meaning: "that he did chastise 
his body, not to deserve by that discipline remission of sin, but to 


have his body in bondage and apt to spiritual things, and to do his 
calling". Translated by Richard Taverner, Philadelphia Publications 
Society, 1888. (Latin jMA-fa vocationem suam.) 

3. According to the lexicons, kindly confirmed by my colleagues 
Professors Braune and Hoops, the word Beruf {Dutch beroep, English 
calling, Danish kald, Swedish kallelse) does not occur in any of the 
languages which now contain it in its present worldly (secular) sense 
before Luther's translation of the Bible. The Middle High German, 
Middle Low German, and Middle Dutch words, which sound like it, 
all mean the same as Ruf in modern German, especially inclusive, in 
late mediaeval times, of the calling (vocation) of a candidate to a 
clerical benefice by those with the power of appointment. It is a 
special case which is also often mentioned in the dictionaries of the 
Scandinavian languages. The word is also occasionally used by 
Luther in the same sense. However, even though this special use of 
the word may have promoted its change of meaning, the modern 
conception of Beruf undoubtedly goes linguistically back to the Bible 
translations by Protestants, and any anticipation of it is only to be 
found, as we shall see later, inTauler (died 1361). All the languages 
which were fundamentally influenced by the Protestant Bible trans- 
lations have the word, all of which this was not true (like the Romance 
languages) do not, or at least not in its modern meaning. 

Luther renders two quite diflferent concepts with Beruf. First the 
Pauline KXfjaig in the sense of the call to eternal salvation through 
Qod.T hus: i Cor. i. 26; Eph.i. 18; iv. 1,4; 2 Thess.i. 11 ; Heb.iii. i ; 
2 Peter i. 10. All these cases concern the purely religious idea of the 
call through the Gospel taught by the apostle; the word KAfjaig has 
nothing to do with worldly callings in the modern sense. The German 
Bibles before Luther use in this case ritffunge (so in all those in the 
Heidelberg Library), and sometimes instead of "von Gott geruffet" 
say "von Gott gefordert". Secondly, however, he, as we have already 
seen, translates the words in Jesus Sirach discussed in the previous 
note (in the Septuagint £v reo epyco aov T:a\aiwOi)Ti and Kai e/x/xeve 
TO) novo) aov), with "beharre in deinem Beruf" and "bliebe in deinem 
Beruf", instead of "bliebe bei deiner Arbeit". The later (authorized) 
Catholic translations (for instance that of Fleischütz, Fulda, 1781) 
have (as in the New Testament passages) simply followed him. 
Luther's translation of the passage in the Book of Sirach is, so far 
as I know, the first case in which the German word Beruf appears 
in its present purely secular sense.The preceding exhortation, verse 20, 
axTJdi ev diaOriKj) aov, he translates "bliebe in Gottes Wort", although 
Sirach xiv. i and xliii. 10 show that, corresponding to the Hebrew 
pr\, which (according to quotations in the Talmud) Sirach used, 
öiadi]Kr] really did mean something similar to our calling, namely 
one's fate or assigned task. In its later and present sense the word 
Beruf did not exist in the German language, nor, so far as I can learn, 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

in the works of the older Bible translators or preachers. The German 
Bibles before Luther rendered the passage from Sirach with Werk. 
Berthold of Regensburg, at the points in his sermons where the 
modern would say Beruf, uses the word Arbeit. The usage was thus 
the same as in antiquity. The first passage I know, in which not 
Beruf but Ruf (as a translation of KXfjaio) is applied to purely worldly 
labour, is in the fine sermon of Tauler on Ephesians iv (Works, Basle edi- 
tion, f. 117. v), of peasants who misten go : they often fare better "so sie 
folgen einfeltiglich irem Ruff denn die geistlichen Menschen, die auf 
ihren Ruf nicht Acht haben". The word in this sense did not find 
its way into everyday speech. Although Luther's usage at first 
vacillates between Ruf and Beruf (see Werke, Erlangen edition, 
p. 51.), that he was directly influenced by Tauler is by no means 
certain, although the Freiheit eines Christenmenschen is in miany 
respects similar to this sermon of Tauler. But in the purely worldly 
sense of Tauler, Luther did not use the word Ruf. (This against 
Denifle, Luther, p. 163.) 

Now evidently Sirach 's advice in the version cf the Septuagint 
contains, apart from the general exhortation to trust in God, no 
suggestion of a specifically religious valuation of secular labour in a 
calling. The term tiovoz, toil, in the corrupt second passage would 
be rather the opposite, if it were not corrupted. What Jesus Sirach 
says simply corresponds to the exhortation of the psalmist (Psa. xxxvii. 
3), "Dwell in the land, and feed on his faithfulness", as also comes 
out clearly in the connection with the warning not to let oneself be 
blinded with the works of the godless, since it is easy for God to 
make a poor man rich. Only the opening exhortation to remain in 
the p\\ (verse 20) has a certain resemblance to the KAfjai; of the Gospel, 
but here Luther did not use the word Beruf for the Greek Öiadi)Kq. 
The connection between Luther's two seemingly quite unrelated 
uses of the word Beruf is found in the first letter to the Corinthians 
and its translation. 

In the usual modern editions, the whole context in which 
the passage stands is as follows, i Cor, vii. 17 (English, King 
James version [American revision, iqoi]): "(17) Only as the Lord 
hath distributed to each man, as God hath called each, so let him 
walk. And so ordain I in all churches. (18) Was any man called being 
circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Hath any man been 
called in uncircumcision ? let him not be circumcised. (19) Circum- 
cision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing; but the keeping of 
the commandments of God. (20) Let each man abide in that calling 
wherein he was called (t'f rn KAr'jaei rj ekA/jOi] ; an undoubted Hebraism, 
as Professor Merx tells me). (21) Wast thou called being a bond- 
servant? care not for it; nay even if thou canst become free use it 
rather. (22) For he that was called in the Lord being a bondservant 
is the Lord's freedman; likewise he that was called being free is 



Christ's bondservant. (23) Ye were bought with a price; become not 
bondservants of men. (24) Brethren, let each man, wherein he was 
called, therein abide with God." 

In verse 29 follows the remark that time is shortened, followed by 
the well-known commandments motivated by eschatological expecta- 
tions: (31) to possess women as though one did not have them, to 
buy as though one did not have what one had bought, etc. In verse 20 
Luther, following the older German translations, even in 1523 in his 
exigesis of this chapter, renders KXfjaiQ with Beruf, and interprets it with 
Stand. (Erlangen ed., LI, p. 51.) 

In fact it is evident that the word KXfjan; at this point, and only 
at this, corresponds approximately to the Latin status and the German 
Stand (status of marriage, status of a servant, etc.). But of course 
not as Brentano, op. cit., p. 137, assumes, in the modern sense of 
Beruf. Brentano can hardly have read this passage, or what I have 
said about it, very carefully. In a sense at least suggesting it this 
word, which is etymologically related to sKKArjaia, an assembly which 
has been called, occurs in Greek literature, so far as the lexicons tell, 
only once in a passage from Dionysius of Halicarnassus, where 
it corresponds to the Latin classis, a word borrowed from the 
Greek, meaning that part of the citizenry which has been called to 
the colours. Theophylaktos (eleventh-twelfth century) interprets 
I Cor. vii. 20: iv oio) ßio) Kai ev olq) Tay/naTi Kai TToAirev/iazi wv 
evlarevaev. (My colleague Professor Deissmann called my attention 
to this passage.) Now, even in our passage, KXf^aiz does not correspond 
to the modern Beruf. But having translated KAfjaig with Beruf in the 
eschatologically motivated exhortation, that everyone should remain 
in his present status, Luther, when he later came to translate the 
Apocrypha, would naturally, on account of the similar content of the 
exhortations alone, also use Beruf for novog in the traditionalistic and 
anti-chrematistic commandment of Jesus Sirach, that everyone 
should remain in the same business. This is what is important and 
characteristic. The passage in i Cor. vii. 17 does not, as has been pointed 
out, use KAfjaiQ at all in the sense of Beruf, a definite field of activity. 
In the meantime (or about the same time), in the Augsburg Con- 
fession, the Protestant dogma of the uselessness of the Catholic 
attempt to excel worldly morality was established, and in it the 
expression "einem jeglichen nach seinem Beruf" was used (see 
previous note). In Luther's translation, both this and the positive 
valuation of the order in which the individual was placed, as holy, 
which was gaining ground just about the beginning of the 1530's, 
stand out. It was a result of his more and more sharply defined 
belief in special Divine Providence, even in the details of life, and 
at the same time of his increasing inclination to accept the existing 
order of things in the world as immutably willed by God. Vocatio, 
in the traditional Latin, meant the divine call to a life of holiness, 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

especially in a monastery or as a priest. But now, under the influence 
of this dogma, life in a worldly calling came for Luther to have the 
same connotation. For he now translated novoc, and epyov in Jesus 
Sirach with Beruf, for which, up to that time, there had been only 
the (Latin) analogy, coming from the monastic translation. But a 
few. years earlier, in Prov. xxii. 29, he had still translated the Hebrew 
n3X?9> which was the original of epyov in the Greek text of Jesus 
Sirach, and which, like the German Beruf and the Scandinavian 
kald, kallelse, originally related to a spiritual call {Beruf), as in other 
passages (Gen. xxxix. 11), with Geschäft (Septuagint epyov, Vulgate 
opus, English Bibles business, and correspondingly in the Scandinavian 
and all the other translations before me). 

The word Beruf, in the modern sense which he had finally created, 
remained for the time being entirely Lutheran. To the Calvinists 
the Apocrypha are entirely uncanonical. It was only as a result of the 
development which brought the interest in proof of salvation to the 
fore that Luther's concept was taken over, and then strongly empha- 
sized by them. But in their first (Romance) translations they had no 
such word available, and no power to create one in the usage of a 
language already so stereotyped. 

As early as the sixteenth century the concept of Beruf in its present 
sense became established in secular literature. The Bible translators 
before Luther had used the word Berufung for KXfjaig (as for instance 
in the Heidelberg versions of 1462-66 and 1485), and the Eck trans- 
lation of 1537 says "in dem Ruf, worin er beruft ist". Most of the 
later Catholic translators directly follow Luther. In England, the first 
of all, Wyclif's translation (1382), used cleping (the Old English 
word which was later replaced by the borrowed calling). It is quite 
characteristic of the Lollard ethics to use a word which already 
corresponded to the later usage of the Reformation. Tyndale's transla- 
tion of 1534, on the other hand, interprets the idea in terms of status: 
"in the same state wherein he was called", as also does the Geneva 
Bible of 1557. Cranmer's oflScial translation of 1539 substituted 
calling for state, whil^ the (Catholic) Bible of Rheims (1582), as well 
as the Anglican Court Bibles of the Elizabethan era, characteristically 
return to vocation, following the Vulgate. 

That for England, Cranmer's Bible translation is the source of the 
Puritan conception of calling in the sense of Beruf, trade, has already, 
quite correctly, been pointed out by Murray. As early as the middle 
of the sixteenth century calling is used in that sense. In 1588 unlawful 
callings are referred to, and in 1603 greater callings in the sense of 
higher occupations, etc. (see Murray). Quite remarkable is Bren- 
tano's idea {op. cit., p. 139), that in the Middle Ages vocatio was 
not translated with Beruf, and that this concept was not knowTi, 
because only a free man could engage in a Beruf, and freemen, in 
the middle-class professions, did not exist at that time. Since the 



whole social structure of the mediaeval crafts, as opposed to those of 
antiquity, rested upon free labour, and, above all, almost all the 
merchants were freemen, I do not clearly understand this thesis. 

4. Compare with the following the instructive discussion in K. 
Eger, Die Anschauung Luthers vom Beruf (Giessen, 1900). Perhaps 
its only serious fault, which is shared by almost all other theological 
writers, is his insufficiently clear analysis of the concept of lex naturce. 
On this see E. Troeltsch in his review of Seeberg's Dogmengeschichte, 
and now above all in the relevant parts of his Soziallehren der christ- 
lichen Kirchen. 

5. For when Thomas Aquinas represents the division of men into 
estates and occupational groups as the work of divine providence, 
by that he means the objective cosmos of society. But that the 
individual should take up a particular calling (as we should say; 
Thomas, however, says ministerium or officium) is due to causce 
naturales. Qucest. quodlibetal, VII, Art. 17c: "Haec autem diversi- 
ficatio hominum in diversis officiis contingit primo ex divina Pro- 
videntia, quae ita hominum status distribuit . . . secundo etiam ex 
causis naturalibus', ex quibus contingit, quod in diversis hominibus 
sunt diversae inclinationes ad diversa officia. . . ." 

Quite similar is Pascal's view when he says that it is chance which 
determines the choice of a calling. See on Pascal, A. Koester, Die 
Ethik Pascals (1907). Of the organic systems of religious ethics, 
only the most complete of them, the Indian, is different in this 
respect. The difference between the Thomistic and the Protestant 
ideas of the calling is so evident that we may dismiss it for the present 
with the above quotation. This is true even as between the Thomistic 
and the later Lutheran ethics, which are very similar in many other 
respects, especially in their emphasis on Providence. We shall return 
later to a discussion of the Catholic view-point. On Thomas Aquinas, 
see Maurenbrecher, Thomas von Aquino's Stellung zum Wirtschafts- 
leben seiner Zeit, 1888. Otherwise, where Luther agrees with Thomas 
in details, he has probably been influenced rather by the general 
doctrines of Scholasticism than by Thomas in particular. For, accord- 
ing to Denifle's investigations, he seems really not to have known 
Thomas very well. See Denifle, Luther und Luthertum (1903), p. 501, 
and on it, Koehler, Ein Wort zu Denifles Luther (1904), p. 25. 

6. In Von der Freiheit eines Christenmenschen, (i) the double nature 
of man is used for the justification of worldly duties in the sense of 
the lex natures (here the natural order of the world). From that it 
follows (Erlangen edition, 27, p. 188) that man is inevitably bound to 
his body and to the social community. (2) In this situation he will 
(p. 196: this is a second justification), if he is a believing Christian, 
decide to repay God's act X)f grace, which was done for pure love, 
by love of his neighbour. With this very loose connection between 
faith and love is combined (3) (p. 190) the old ascetic justification 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

of labour as a means of securing to the inner man mastery over the 
body. (4) Labour is hence, as the reasoning is continued with another 
appearance of the idea of lex natures in another sense (here, natural 
morality), an original instinct given by God to Adam (before the fall), 
which he has obeyed "solely to please God". Finally (5) (pp. 161 
and 199), there appears, in connection with Matt. vii. 18 f., the idea 
that good work in one's ordinary calling is and must be the result of 
the renewal of life, caused by faith, without, however, developing the 
most important Calvinistic idea of proof. The powerful emotion which 
dominates the work explains the presence of such contradictory ideas. 

(^y. "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or 
the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their 
own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity, but to 
their self-love; and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of 
their advantages" {Wealth of Nations, Book I, chap. ii). 
~ 8. "Omnia enim per te operabitur (Deus), mulgebit per te vaccam 
et servilissima quaeque opera faciet, ac maxima pariter et minima 
ipsi grata erunt" (Exigesis of Genesis, Opera lat. exeget., ed. Elsperger, 
VII, p. 213). The idea is found before Luther in Tauler, who holds 
the spiritual and the worldly Ruf to be in principle of equal value. 
The difference from the Thomistic view is common to the German 
mystics and Luther. It may be said that Thomas, principally to 
retain the moral value of contemplation, but also from the view-point 
of the mendicant friar, is forced to interpret Paul's doctrine that "if 
a man will not work he shall not eat" in the sense that labour, which 
is of course necessary lege natura, is imposed upon the human race 
as a whole, but not on all individuals. The gradation in the value of 
forms of labour, from the opera servilia of the peasants upwards, is 
connected with the specific character of the mendicant friars, who 
were for material reasons bound to the town as a place of domicile. 
It was equally foreign to the German mystics and to Luther, the 
peasant's son; both of them, while valuing all occupations equally, 
looked upon their order of rank as willed by God. For the relevant 
passages in Thomas see Maurenbrecher, op. cit., pp. 65 ff. 

9. It is astonishirtg that some investigators can maintain that 
such a change could have been without effect upon the actions of 
men. I confess my inability to understand such a view. 

10. "Vanity is so firmly imbedded in the human heart that a camp- 
follower, a kitchen -helper, or a porter, boast and seek admirers. ..." 
(Faugeres edition, I, p. 208. Compare Koester, o/).aV.,pp. 17, 136 ff.). 
On the attitude of Port Royal and the Jansenists to the calling, to 
which we shall return, see now the excellent study of Dr. Paul 
Honigsheim, Die Staats- und Soziallehren der französischen Jansenisten 
im lyten Jahrhundert (Heidelberg Historical Dissertation, 1914. It is 
a separately printed part of a more comprehensive work on the Vorge- 
schichte der französischen Aufklärung. Compare especially pp. 138 ff.). 



II. Apropos of the Fuggers, he thinks that it "cannot be right and 
godly for such a great and regal fortune to be piled up in the lifetime 
of one man". That is evidently the peasant's mistrust of capital. 
Similarly {Grosser Sermon vom Wucher, Erlangen edition, XX, p. 109) 
investment in securities he considers ethically undesirable, because 
it is "ein neues behendes erfunden Ding" — i.e. because it is to him 
economically incomprehensible ; somewhat like margin trading to the 
modern clergyman. 

It. The difference is well worked out by H. Levy (in his study, 
Die Grundlagen des ökonomischen Liberalismus in der Geschichte der 
englischen Volkswirtschaft, Jena, 1912). Compare also, for instance, 
the petition of the Levellers in Cromwell's army of 1653 against 
monopolies and companies, given in Gardiner, Commonwealth, II, 
p. 179. Laud's regime, on the other hand, worked for a Christian, 
social, economic organization under the joint leadership of Crown 
and Church, from which the King hoped for political and fiscal- 
monopolistic advantages. It was against just this that the Puritans 
were struggling. 

13. What I understand by this may be shown by the example of 
the proclamation addressed by Cromwell to the Irish in 1650, with 
which he opened his war against them and which formed his reply 
to the manifestos of the Irish (Catholic) clergy of Clonmacnoise of 
December 4 and 13, 1649. The most important sentences follow: 
"Englishmen had good inheritances (namely in Ireland) which many 
of them purchased with their money . . . they had good leases from 
Irishmen for long time to come, great stocks thereupon, houses and 
plantations erected at their cost and charge. . . . You broke the 
union ... at a time when Ireland was in perfect peace and when, 
through the example of English industry, through commerce and 
traffic, that which was in the nation's hands was better to them than 
if all Ireland had been in their possession. ... Is God, will God 
be with you? I am confident He will no't." 

This proclamation, which is suggestive of articles in the English 
Press at the time of the Boer War, is not characteristic, because the 
capitalistic interests of Englishmen are held to be the justification of 
the war. That argument could, of course, have just as well been 
made use of, for instance, in a quarrel between Venice and Genoa 
over their respective spheres of influence in the Orient (which, in 
spite of my pointing it out here, Brentano, op. cit., p. 142, strangely 
enough holds against me). On the contrary, what is interesting in 
the document is that Cromwell, with the deepest personal conviction, 
as everyone who knows his character will agree, bases the moral 
justification of the subjection of the Irish, in calling God to witness, 
on the fact that English capital has taught the Irish to work. (The 
proclamation is in Carlyle, and is also reprinted and analysed in 
Gardiner, History of the Comynonu'ealth, I, pp. 163 f.) 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

14. This is not the place to follow the subject farther. Gampare 
the authors cited in Note 16 below. 

15. Compare the remarks in Jiiiicher's fine book, Die Gleichnisreden 
Jesu, II, pp. 108, 636 f. 

16. With what follows, compare above all the discussion in Eger, 
op. cit. Also Schneckenburger's fine work, which is even to-day not 
yet out of date {Vergleichende Darstellung der lutherischeji und refor- 
mierten Lehrhegriffe, Grüder, Stuttgart, 1855). Luthardt's Ethik 
Luthers, p. 84 of the first edition, the only one to which I have had 
access, gives no real picture of the development. Further compare 
Seeberg, Dogmengeschichte, II, pp. 262 ff. The article on Beruf in the 
Realenzyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche is valueless. 
Instead of a scientific analysis of the conception and its origin, it 
contains all sorts of rather sentimental observations on all possible 
subjects, such as the position of women, etc. Of the economic 
literature on Luther, I refer here only to Schmoller's studies 
("Geschichte der Nationalökönomischen Ansichten in Deutschland 
während der Reformationszeit", Zeitschrift f. Staatswiss., XVI, i860); 
Wiskemann's prize essay (1861); and the study of Frank G. Ward 
("Darstellung und Würdigung von Luthers Ansichten vom Staat und 
seinen wirtschaftlichen Aufgaben", Conrads Abhandlimgai, XXI, 
Jena, 1898). The literature on Luther in commemoration of the 
anniversary of the Reformation, part of which is excellent, has, so 
far as I can see, made no definite contribution to this particular 
problem. On the social ethics of Luther (and the Lutherans) compare, 
of course, the relevant parts of Troeltsch's Soziallehren. 

17. Analysis of the Seventh Chapter of the First Epistle to the Corin- 
thians, 1523, Erlangen edition, LI, p. i. Here Luther still interprets 
the idea of the freedom of every calling before God in the sense of 
this passage, so as to emphasize (i) that certain human institutions 
should be repudiated (monastic vows, the prohibition of mixed 
marriages, etc.), (2) that the fulfillment of traditional worldly duties 
to one's neighbour (in itself indifferent before God) is turned into a 
commandment of brotherly love. In fact this characteristic reasoning 
(for instance pp. 55,. 56) fundamentally concerns the question of the 
dualism of the lex natura in its relations vi^ith divine justice. 

18. Compare the passage from Von Kaufhandlung und Wucher, 
which Sombart rightly use? as a motto for his treatment of the 
handicraft -spirit (= traditionalism): "Darum musst du dir fürsetzen, 
nichts denn deine ziemliche Nahrung zu suchen in solchem Handel, 
danach Kost, Mühe, Arbeit und Gefahr rechnen und überschlagen 
und also dann die Ware selbst setzen, steigern oder niedern, dass du 
solcher Arbeit und Mühe Lohn davon hasst." The principle is for- 
mulated in a thoroughly Thomistic spirit. 

19. As early as the letter to H. von Sternberg of 1530, in which 
he dedicates the Exigesis of the 117th Psalm to him, the estate of the 



lower nobility appears to him, in spite of its moral degradation, as 
ordained of God (Erlangen edition, XL, pp. 282 ff.)- The decisive 
influence of the Münzer disturbances in developing this view-point can 
clearly be seen in the letter (p. 282). Compare also Eger, op. cit., p. 150. 

20. Also in the analysis of the 1 1 ith Psalm, verses 5 and 6 (Erlangen 
edition, XL, pp. 215-16), written in 1530, the starting-point is the 
polemics against withdrawal from the world into monasteries. But in this 
case the lex naturce (as distinct from positive law made by the Emperor 
and the Jurists) is directly identical with divine justice. It is God's 
ordinance, and includes especially the division of the people into 
classes (p. 215). The equal value of the classes is emphasized, but 
only in the sight of God. 

21. As taught especially in the works Von Konzilien und Kirchen 
(1539) and Kurzer Bekenntnis vom heiligen Sakrament (1545). 

22. How far in the background of Luther's thought was the most 
important idea of proof of the Christian in his calling and his worldly 
conduct, which dominated Calvinism, is shown by this passage from 
Von Konzilien und Kirchen (1539, Erlangen edition, XXV, p. 376): 
"Besides these seven principal signs there are more superficial ones 
by which the holy Christian Church can be known. If we are not 
unchaste nor drunkards, proud, insolent, nor extravagant, but chaste, 
modest, and temperate." According to Luther these signs are not so 
infallible as the others (purity of doctrine, prayer, etc.). "Because 
certain of the heathen have borne themselves so and sometimes even 
appeared holier than Christians." Calvin's personal position was, as 
we shall see, not very different, but that was not true of Puritanism. 
In any case, for Luther the Christian serves God only in vocatione, 
not per vocationem (Eger, pp. 117 ff.). Of the idea of proof, on the 
other hand (more, however, in its Pietistic than its Calvinistic form), 
there are at least isolated suggestions in the German mystics (see 
for instance in Seeberg, Dogmengeschichte, p. 195, the passage from 
Suso, as well as those from Tauler quoted above), even though it 
was understood only in a psychological sense. 

23. His final position is well expressed in some parts of the 
exegesis of Genesis (in the op. lat. exeget. edited by Elsperger). 

Vol. IV, p. 109: "Neque haec fuit levis tentatio, intentum esse 
suae vocationi et de aliis non esse curiosum. . . . Paucissimi sunt, 
qui sua sorte vivant contenti ... (p. iii). Nostrum autem est, 
ut vocanti Deo pareamus ... (p. 112). Regula igitur haec servanda 
est, ut unusquisque maneat in sua vocatione et suo dono contentus 
vivat, de aliis autem non sit curiosus." In effect that is thoroughly 
in accordance with Thomas Aquinas 's formulation of traditionalism 
(Secunda secundce, Quest. 118, Art. i) : "Unde necesse est, quod bonum 
hominis circa ea consistat in quadam mensura, dum scilicet homo . . . 
quaerit habere exteriores divitas, prout sunt necessariae ad vitam 
ejus secundum suam conditionem. Et ideo in excessu hujus mensurae 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

consistit peccatum, dum scilicet aliquis oupra debitum modum vult 
eas vel acquirere vel retinere, quod pertinet ad avaritiam." The 
sinfulness of the pursuit of acquisition beyond the point set by the 
needs of one's station in life is based by Thomas on the lex natura 
as revealed by the purpose (ratio) of external goods ; by Luther, on 
the other hand, on God's will. On the relation of faith and the calling 
in Luther see also Vol. VII, p. 225: "... quando es fidelis, turn 
placent Deo etiam physica, carnalia, animalia, officia, sive edas, sive 
bibas, sive vigiles, sive dormias, quae mere corporalia et animalia 
sunt. Tanta res est fides. . . . Verum est quidem, placere Deo 
etiam in impiis sedulitatem et industriam in officio [This activity in 
practical life is a virtue lege natura] sed obstat incredulitas et vana 
gloria, ne possint opera sua referre ad gloriam Dei [reminiscent of 
Calvinistic w^ays of speaking]. . . . Merentur igitur etiam impiorum 
bona opera in hac quidem vita praemia sua [as distinct from Augus- 
tine's 'vitia specie virtutum palliata'] sed non numerantur, non 
coUiguntur in altero." 

24. In the Kirchenpostille it runs (Erlangen edition, X, pp. 233, 
235-6): "Everyone is called to some calling." He should wait for 
this call (on p. 236 it even becomes command) and serve God in it. 
God takes pleasure not in man's achievements but in his obedience 
in this respect. 

25. This explains why, in contrast to what has been said above 
about the effects of Pietism on women workers, modern business 
men sometimes maintain that strict Lutheran domestic workers 
to-day often, for instance in Westphalia, think very largely in tradi- 
tional terms. Even without going over to the factory system, and in 
spite of the temptation of higher earnings, they resist changes in 
methods of work, and in explanation maintain that in the next world 
such trifles won't matter anyway. It is evident that the mere fact of 
Church membership and belief is not in itself of essential significance 
for conduct as a whole. It has been much more concrete religious 
values and ideals which have influenced the development of capitalism 
in its early stages and, to a lesser extent, still do. 

26. Compare Tauler, Basle edition, BL, pp. 161 fif. 

27. Compare the peculiarly emotional sermon of Tauler referred 
to above, and the following one, 17, 18, verse 20. 

28. Since this is the sole purpose of these present remarks on 
Luther, I have limited them to a brief preliminary sketch, which 
would, of course, be wholly inadequate as an appraisal of Luther's 
influence as a whole. 

29. One who shared the philosophy of history of the Levellers 
would be in the fortunate position of being able to attribute this in 
turn to racial differences. They believed themselves to be the defenders 
of the Anglo-Saxon birthright, against the descendants of William 
the Conqueror and the Normans. It is astonishing enough that it 



has not yet occurred to anyone to maintain that the plebeian Round- 
heads were round-headed in the anthropometric sense ! 

30. Especially the English national pride, a result of Magna 
Charta and the great wars. The saying, so typical to-day, "She looks 
like an English girl" on seeing any pretty foreign girl, is reported as 
early as the fifteenth century. 

31. These differences have, of course, persisted in England as 
well. Especially the Squirearchy has remained the centre of "merrie 
old England" down to the present day, and the whole period since 
the Reformation may be looked upon as a struggle of the two elements 
in English society. In this point I agree with M. J. Bonn's remarks 
(in the Frankfurter Zeitung) on the excellent study of v. Schulze- 
Gaevernitz on British Imperialism. Compare H. Levy in the Archiv 
für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, 46, 3. 

32. In spite of this and the following remarks, which in my opinion 
are clear enough, and have never been changed, I have again and 
again been accused of this. 


1. Zwinglianism we do not discuss separately, since after a short 
lease of power it rapidly lost in importance. Arminianism, the dog- 
matic peculiarity of which consisted in the repudiation of the doctrine 
of predestination in its strict form, and which also repudiated worldly 
asceticism, was organized as a sect only in Holland (and the United 
States). In this chapter it is without interest to us, or has only the 
negative interest of having been the religion of the merchant patricians 
in Holland (see below). In dogma it resembled the Anglican Church 
and most of the Methodist denominations. Its Erastian position (i.e. 
upholding the sovereignty of the State even in Church matters) was, 
however, common to all the authorities with purely political interests : 
the Long Parliament in England, Elizabeth, the Dutch States-General, 
and, above all, Oldenbamereldt. 

2. On the development of the concept of Puritanism see, above all, 
Sanford, Studies and Reflections of the Great Rebellion, p. 65 f. When 
we use the expression it is always in the sense which it took on in 
the popular speech of the seventeenth century, to mean the ascetically 
inclined religious movements in Holland and England without 
distinction of Church organization or dogma, thus including Inde- 
pendents, Congregationalists, Baptists, Mennonites, and Quakers. 

3. This has been badly misunderstood in the discussion of these 
questions. Especially Sombart, but also Brentano, continually cite the 
ethical writers (mostly those of whom they have heard through me) 
as codifications of rules of conduct without ever asking which of 
them were supported by psychologically effective religious sanctions. 

Q 2^7 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

4. I hardly need to emphasize that this sketch, so far as it is con- 
cerned solely with the field of dogma, falls back everywhere on the 
formulations of the literature of the history of the Church and of 
doctrine. It makes no claim whatever to originality. Naturally I have 
attempted, so far as possible, to acquaint myself with the sources for 
the history of the Reformation. But to ignore in the process the 
intensive and acute theological research of many decades, instead of, 
as is quite indispensable, allowing oneself to be led from it to the 
sources, would have been presumption indeed. I must hope that the 
necessary brevity of the sketch has not led to incorrect formulations, 
and that I have at least avoided important misunderstandings of fact. 
The discussion contributes something new. for those familiar with 
theological literature only in the sense that the whole is, of course, 
considered from the point of view of our problem. For that reason 
many of the most important points, for instance the rational character 
of this asceticism and its significance for modern life, have naturally 
not been emphasized by theological writers. 

This aspect, and in general the sociological side, has, since the 
appearance of this study, been systematically studied in the work of 
E. Troeltsch, mentioned above, whose Gerhard und Mclancthon, as 
well as numerous reviews in the Gott. Gel. Anz., contained several 
preliminary studies to his great work. For reasons of space the 
references have not included everything which has been used, but 
for the most part only those works which that part of the text follows, 
or which are directly relevant to it. These are often older authors, 
where our problems have seemed closer to them. The insufficient 
pecuniary resources of German libraries have meant that in the 
provinces the most important source materials or studies could only 
be had from Berlin or other large libraries on loan for very short 
periods. This is the case with Voet, Baxter, Tyermans, Wesley, all 
the Methodist, Baptist, and Quaker authors, and many others of the 
earlier writers not contained in the Corpus Reformatorum . For any 
thorough study the use of English and American libraries is almost 
indispensable. But for the following sketch it was necessary (and 
possible) to be content with material available in Germany. In 
America recently the characteristic tendency to deny their own 
sectarian origins has led many university libraries to provide little 
or nothing new of that sort of literature. It is an aspect of the general 
tendency to the secularization of American life which will in a short 
time have dissolved the traditional national character and changed 
the significance of many of the fundamental institutions of the 
country completely and finally. It is now necessary to fall back on 
the small orthodox sectarian colleges. 

5. On Calvin and Calvinism, besides the fundamental work of 
Kampschulte, the best source of information is the discussion of 
Erick Marcks (in his Coligny). Campbell, The Puritans in Holland, 



England, and America (2 vols.), is not always critical and unprejudiced. 
A strongly partisan anti-Calvinistic study is Pierson, Studien over 
Johan Calvijn. For the development in Holland compare, besides 
Motley, the Dutch classics, especially Groen van Prinsterer, Geschie- 
denis v.h. Vaderland; La Hollande et Vinfluence de Calvin (1864); Le 
parti anti-rdvoliitionnaire et confessionnel dans I'dglise des P.B. (i860) 
(for modern Holland); further, above all, Fruin's Tien jar en mit den 
tachtigjarigen oorlog, and especially Naber, Calvinist of Libertijnsch. 
Also W. J. F. Nuyens, Gesch. der kerkel. an pol. geschillen in de Rep. 
d. Ver. Prov. (Amsterdam, 1886); A. Köhler, Die Niederl. ref. Kirche 
(Erlangen, 1856), for the nineteenth century. For France, besides 
Polenz, now Baird, Rise of the Huguenots. For England, besides 
Carlyle, Macaulay, Masson, and, last but not least, Ranke, above all, 
now the various works of Gardiner and Firth. Further, Taylor, 
A Retrospect of the Religious Life in England (1854), and the excellent 
book of Weingarten, Die englischen Revolutionskirchen. Then the 
article on the English Moralists by E. Troeltsch in the Realetizy- 
klopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche, third edition, and 
of course his Soziallehren. Also E. Bernstein's excellent essay in 
the Geschichte des Sozialismus (Stuttgart, 1895, I, p. 50 ff.). The best 
bibliography (over seven thousand titles) is in Dexter, Congregational- 
ism of the Last Three Hundred Years (principally, though not exclu- 
sively, questions of Church organization). The book is very much 
better than Price {History of Nonconformism) , Skeats, and others. 
For Scotland see, among others. Sack, Die Kirche von Schottland 
(1844), and the literature on John Knox. For the American colonies 
the outstanding work is Doyle, The English in America. Further, 
Daniel Wait Howe, The Puritan Republic; J. Brown, The Pilgrim 
Fathers of New England and their Puritan Successors (third edition, 
Revell). Further references will be given later. 

For the differences of doctrine the following presentation is 
especially indebted to Schneckenburger's lectures cited above. Ritschl's 
fundamental work. Die christliche Lehre von der Rechtfertigung und 
Versöhnung (references to Vol. HI of third edition), in its mixture of 
historical method with judgments of value, shows the marked pecu- 
liarities of the author, who with all his fine acuteness of logic does 
not always give the reader the certainty of objectivity. Where, for 
instance, he differs from Schneckenburger's interpretation I am often 
doubtful of his correctness, however little I presume to have an 
opinion of my own. Further, what he selects out of the great variety 
of religious ideas and feelings as the Lutheran doctrine often seems 
to be determined by his own preconceptions. It is what Ritschl 
himself conceives to be of permanent value in Lutheranism. It is 
Lutheranism as Ritschl would have had it, not always as it was. 
That the works of Karl Müller, Seeberg, and others have ever>'^vhere 
been made use of it is unnecessary to mention particularly. If in 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

the following I have condemned the reader as well as myself to the 
penitence of a malignant growth of footnotes, it has been done in 
order to give especially the non-theological reader an opportunity to 
check up the validity of this sketch by the suggestion of related lines 
of thought. 

6. In the following discussion we are not primarily interested in 
the origin, antecedents, or history of these ascetic movements, but 
take their doctrines as given in a state of full development. 

7. For the following discussion I may here say definitely that we 
are not studying the personal views of Calvin, but Calvinism, and 
that in the form to which it had evolved by the end of the sixteenth 
and in the seventeenth centuries in the great areas where it had a 
decisive influence and which were at the same time the home of 
capitalistic culture. For the present, Germany is neglected entirely, 
since pure Calvinism never dominated large areas here. Reformed is, 
of course, by no means identical with Calvinistic. 

8. Even the Declaration agreed upon between the University of 
Cambridge and the Archbishop of Canterbury on the 17th Article 
of the Anglican Confession, the so-called Lambeth Article of 1595, 
which (contrary to the official version) expressly held that there was 
also predestination to eternal death, was not ratified by the Queen. 
The Radicals (as in Hanserd Ktiolly's Cotifesston) laid special emphasis 
on the express predestination to death (not only the admission of 
damnation, as the milder doctrine would have it). 

9. Westminster Confession, fifth official edition, London, 1717. 
Compare the Savoy and the (American) Hanserd KnoUy's Declarations. 
On predestination and the Huguenots see, among others, Polenz, 

I. pp. 545 ff- 

10. On Milton's theology see the essay of Eibach in the Theol. 
Studieti und Kritiken, 1879. Macaulay's essay on it, on the occasion 
of Sumner's translation of the Doctrina Christiana, rediscovered in 
1823 (Tauchnitz edition, 185, pp. i ff.), is superficial. For more 
detail see the somewhat too schematic six-volume English work of 
Masson, and the German biography of Milton by Stern which rests 
upon it. Milton early began to grow away from the doctrine of pre- 
destination in the form of the double decree, and reached a wholly 
free Christianity in his old age. In his freedom from the tendencies 
of his own time he may in a certain sense be compared to Sebastian 
Franck. Only Milton was a practical and positive person, Franck 
predominantly critical. Milton is a Puritan only in the broader sense 
of the rational organization of his life in the world in accordance 
with the divine will, which formed the permanent inheritance of later 
times from Calvinism. Franck could be called a Puritan in much the 
same sense. Both, as isolated figures, must remain outside our 

11. "Hie est fides summus gradus; credere Deum esse clementum, 


qui tarn paucos salvat, justum, qui sua voluntate nos damnabiles 
facit", is the. text of the famous passage in De servo arbitrio. 

12. The truth is that both Luther and Calvin believed funda- 
mentally in a double God (see Ritschl's remarks in Geschichte des 
Pietismus and Kostlin, Gott in Realenzyklopädie für protestantische 
Theologie und Kirche, third edition), the gracious and kindly Father 
of the New Testament, who dominates the first books of the Institutio 
Christiana, and behind him the Deus absconditus as an arbitrary 
despot. For Luther, the God of the New Testament kept the upper 
hand, because he avoided reflection on metaphysical questions as 
useless and dangerous, while for Calvin the idea of a transcendental 
God won out. In the popular development of Calvinism, it is true, 
this idea could not be maintained, but what took his place was not the 
Heavenly Father of the New Testament but the Jehovah of the Old. 

13. Compare on the following: Scheibe, Calvins Prädestinations- 
lehre (Halle, 1897). On Calvinistic theology in general, Heppe, 
Dogmatik der evangelisch-reformierten Kirche (Elberfeld, 1861). 

14. Corpus Reformator urn, LXXVH, pp. 186 ff. 

15. The preceding exposition of the Calvinistic doctrine can be 
found in much the same form as here given, for instance in Hoorn- 
beek's Theologia practica (Utrecht, 1663), L. H, c. i ; de predesti- 
natione, the section stands characteristically directly under the 
heading De Deo. The Biblical foundation for it is principally the 
first chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians. It is unnecessary for 
us here to analyse the various inconsistent attempts to combine with 
the predestination and providence of God the responsibility and free 
will of the individual. They began as early as in Augustine's first 
attempt to develop the doctrine. 

16. "The deepest community (with God) is found not in institu- 
tions or corporations or churches, but in the secrets of a solitary 
heart", as Dowden puts the essential point in his fine book Puritan and 
Anglican(p. 234). This deep spiritual loneliness of the individual applied 
as well to the Jansenists of Port Royal, who were also predestinationists. 

17. "Contra qui huiusmodi ccetum [namely a Church which main- 
tains a pure doctrine, sacraments, and Church discipline] contemnunt 
. . . salutis suae certi esse non possunt; et qui in illo contemtu 
perseverat electus non est." Olevian, De subst. feed., p. 222. 

18. "It is said that God sent His Son to save the human race, 
but that was not His purpose. He only wished to help a few out of 
their degradation — and I say unto you that God died only for the 
elect" (sermon held in 1609 at Broek, near Rogge, Wtenbogaert, 
II, p. 9. Compare Nuyens, op. cit., II, p. 232). The explanation of 
the role of Christ is also confused in Hanserd Knolly's Confession. 
It is everywhere assumed that God did not need His instrumentality. 

19. Entzauberung der Welt. On this process see the other essays 
in my Wirtschaftsethik der Weltreligionen. The peculiar position of 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

the old Hebrew ethic, as compared with the closely related ethics of 
Egypt and Babylon, and its development after the time of the prophets, 
rested, as is shown there, entirely on this fundamental fact, the 
rejection of sacramental magic as a road to salvation. (This process 
is for Weber one of the most important aspects of the broader process 
of rationalization, in which he sums up his philosophy of history. 
See various parts of Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft and H. Grab, Der 
Begriff des Rationalen hei Max Weber. — Translator's Note.) 

20. Similarly the most consistent doctrine held that baptism was 
required by positive ordinance, but was not necessary to salvation. 
For that reason the strictly Puritan Scotch and English Independents 
were able to maintain the principle that children of obvious reprobates 
should not be baptized (for instance, children of drunkards). An 
adult who desired to be baptized, but was not yet ripe for the com- 
munion, the Synod of Edam of 1586 (Art. 32, i) recommended 
should be baptized only if his conduct were blameless, and he should 
have placed his desires sonder superstitie. 

21. This negative attitude toward all sensuous culture is, as Dow- 
den, op. cit., shows, a very fundamental element of Puritanism. 

22. The expression individualism includes the most heterogeneous 
things imaginable. What is here understood by it will, I hope, be 
clear from the following discussion. In another sense of the word, 
Lutheranism has been called individualistic, because it does not 
attempt any ascetic regulation of life. In yet another quite different 
sense the word is used, for example, by Dietrich Schäfer when in 
his study, "Zvir Beurteilung des Wormser Konkordats", Abh. d. 
Berl. Akad. (1905), he calls the Middle Ages the era of pronounced 
individuality because, for the events relevant for the historian, 
irrational factors then had a significance which they do not possess 
to-day. He is right, but so perhaps are also those whom he attacks 
in his remarks, for they mean something quite different, when they 
speak of individuality and individualism. Jacob Burchhardt's brilliant 
ideas are to-day at least partly out of date, and a thorough analysis 
of these concepts in historical terms would at the present time be highly 
valuable to science. Quite the opposite is, of course, true when the play 
impulse causes certain historians to define the concept in such a way 
as to enable them to use it as a label for any epoch of history they please. 

23. And in a similar, though naturally less sharp, contrast to the 
later Catholic doctrine. The deep pessimism of Pascal, which also 
rests on the doctrine of predestination, is, on the other hand, of 
Jansenist origin, and the resulting individualism of renunciation by 
no means agrees with the official Catholic position. See the study by 
Honigsheim on the French Jansenists, referred to in Chap. III. note 10. 

24. The same holds for the Jansenists. 

25. Bailey, Praxis pietatis (German edition, Leipzig, 1724), p. 187. 
Also P. J. Spener in his Theologische Bedenken (according to third 



edition, Halle, 1712) adopts a similar standpoint. A friend seldom 
gives advice for the glory of God, but generally for mundane (though 
not necessarily egotistical) reasons. "He [the knowing man] is blind 
in no man's cause, but best sighted in his own. He confines himself 
to the circle of his own affairs and thrusts not his fingers into needless 
fires. He sees the falseness of it [the world] and therefore learns to 
trust himself ever, others so far as not to be damaged by their dis- 
appointment", is the philosophy of Thomas Adams {Works of the 
Puritan Divines, p. 11). Bailey {Praxis pietatis, p. 176) further recom- 
mends every morning before going out among people to imagine 
oneself going into a wild forest full of dangers, and to pray God 
for the "cloak of foresight and righteousness". This feeling is charac- 
teristic of all the ascetic denominations without exception, and in 
the case of many Pietists led directly to a sort of hermit's life within 
the world. Even Spangenberg in the (Moravian) Idea fides fratum, 
p. 382, calls attention with emphasis to Jer. xvii. 5: "Cursed is the 
man who trusteth in man." To grasp the peculiar misanthropy of 
this attitude, note also Hoombeek's remarks {Theologia practica, I, 
p. 882) on the duty to love one's enemy: "Denique hoc magis nos 
ulcisimur, quo proximum, inultum nobis, tradimus ultori Deo — Quo 
quis plus se ulscitur, eo minus id pro ipso agit Deus." It is the same 
transfer of vengeance that is found in the parts of the Old Testament 
written after the exile ; a subtle intensification and refinement of the 
spirit of revenge compared to the older "eye for an eye". On brotherly 
love, see below, note 34. 

26. Of course the confessional did not have only that effect. The 
explanations, for instance, of Muthmann, Z. f. Rel. Psych., I, Heft 2, 
p. 65, are too simple for such a highly complex psychological problem 
as the confessional. 

27. This is a fact which is of especial importance for the inter- 
pretation of the psychological basis of Calvinistic social organizations. 
They all rest on spiritually individualistic, rational motives. The 
individual never enters emotionally into them. The glory of God and 
one's own salvation always remain above the threshold of conscious- 
ness. This accounts for certain characteristic features of the social 
organization of peoples with a Puritan past even to-day. 

28. The fundamentally anti-authoritarian tendency of the doctrine, 
which at bottom undermined every responsibility for ethical conduct 
or spiritual salvation on the part of Church or State as useless, led 
again and again to its proscription, as, for instance, by the States- 
General of the Netherlands. The result was always the formation of 
conventicles (as after 16 14). 

29. On Bunyan compare the biography of Froude in the English 
Men of Letters series, also Macaulay's superficial sketch {Miscel. 
Works, n, p. 227). Bunyan was indifferent to the denominational dis- 
tinctions within Calvinism, but was himself a strict Calvinistic Baptist. 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

30. It is tempting to refer to the undoubted importance for the 
social character of Reformed Christianity of the necessity for salva- 
tion, following from the Calvinistic idea of -'incorporation into the 
body of Christ" (Calvin, Instit. Christ, III, 11, 10), of reception into a 
community conforming to the divine prescriptions. From our point 
of view, however, the centre of the problem is somewhat different. 
That doctrinal tenet could have been developed in a Church of 
purely institutional character {anstaltsmässig), and, as is well known, 
this did happen. But in itself it did not possess the psychological 
force to awaken the initiative to form such communities nor to imbue 
them with the power which Calvinism possessed. Its tendency to 
form a community worked itself out very largely in the world outside 
the Church organizations ordained by God. Here the belief that the 
Christian proved (see below) his state of grace by action in majorem 
Dei gloriam was decisive; and the sharp condemnation of idolatry of 
the flesh and of all dependence on personal relations to other men 
was bound unperceived to direct this energy into the field of objective 
(impersonal) activity. The Christian who took the proof of his state 
of grace seriously acted in the service of God's ends, and these could 
only be impersonal. Every purely emotional, that is not rationally 
motivated, personal relation of man to man easily fell in the Puritan, 
as in every ascetic ethic, under the suspicion of idolatry of the flesh. 
In addition to what has already been said, this is clearly enough shown 
for the case of friendship by the following warning: "It is an 
irrational act and not fit for a rational creature to love any one farther 
than reason will allow us. ... It very often taketh up men's minds 
so as to hinder their love of God" (Baxter, Christian Directory, IV, 
p. 253). We shall meet such arguments again and again. 

The Calvinist was fascinated by the idea that God in creating the 
world, including the order of society, must have willed things to be 
objectively purposeful as a means of adding to His glory ; not the 
flesh for its own sake, but the organization of the things of the flesh 
under His will. The active energies of the elect, liberated by the 
doctrine of predestination, thus flowed into the struggle to rationalize 
the world. Especially the idea that the public welfare, or as Baxter 
(Christian Directory, IV, p. 262) puts it, quite in the sense of later 
liberal rationalism, "The good of the many" (with a somewhat 
forced reference to Rom. ix. 3), was to be preferred to any personal 
or private good of the individual, followed, although not in itself 
new, for Puritanism from tne repudiation of idolatry of the flesh. 
The traditional American objection to performing personal service 
is probably connected, besides the other important causes resulting 
from democratic feelings, at least indirectly with that tradition. 
Similarly, the relative immunity of formerly Puritan peoples to 
Caesarism, and, in general, the subjectively free attitude of the English 
to their great statesmen as compared with liftany things which we 



have experienced since 1878 in Germany positively and negatively. 
On the one hand, there is a greater w^illingness to give the great man 
his due, but, on the other, a repudiation of all hysterical idolization 
of him and of the naive idea that political obedience could be due 
anyone from thankfulness. On the sinfulness of the belief in authority, 
which is only permissible in the form of an impersonal authority, the 
Scriptures, as well as of an excessive devotion to even the most holy 
and virtuous of men, since that might interfere with obedience to 
God, see Baxter, Christian Directory (second edition, 1678), I, p. 56. 
The political consequences of the renunciation of idolatry of the 
flesh and the principle which was first applied only to the Church 
but later to life in general, that God alone should rule, do not belong 
in this investigation. 

31. Of the relation between dogmatic and practical psychological 
consequence we shall often have to speak. That the two are not 
identical it is hardly necessary to remark. 

'^2. Social, used of course without any of the implications attached 
to the modem sense of the word, meaning simply activity within the 
Church, politics, or any other social organization. 

33. "Good works performed for any other purpose than the glory 
of God are sinful" {Hanserd Knolly's Confession, chap. xvi). 

34. What such an impersonality of brotherly love, resulting from 
the orientation of life solely to God's will, means in the field of 
religious group life itself may be well illustrated by the attitude of 
the China Inland Mission and the International Missionaries Alliance 
(see Wameck, Gesch. d. prot. Missionären, pp. 99, 1 1 1). At tremendous 
expense an army of missionaries was fitted out, -for instance one 
thousand for China alone, in order by itinerant preaching to ofifer 
the Gospel to all the heathen in a strictly literal sense, since Christ 
had commanded it and made His second coming dependent on it. 
Whether these heathen should be converted to Christianity and 
thus attain salvation, even whether they could understand the 
language in which the missionary preached, was a matter of small 
importance and could be left to God, Who alone could control such 
things. According to Hudson Taylor (see Wameck, op. cit.), China 
has about fifty million families; one thousand missionaries could 
each reach fifty families per day (!) or the Gospel could be presented 
to all the Chinese in less than three years. It is precisely the same 
manner in which, for instance, Calvinism carried out its Church 
discipline. The end was not the salvation of those subject to it, 
which was the affair of God alone (in practice their own) and could 
not be in any way influenced by the means at the disposal of the 
Church, but simply the increase of God's glory. Calvinism as such 
is not responsible for those feats of missionary zeal, since they rest 
on an interdenominational basis. Calvin himself denied the duty of 
sending missions to the heathen since a further expansion of the 


The Protestafit Ethic afid the Spirit of Capitalism 

Church is wiiits Dei opus. Nevertheless, they obviously originate 
in the ideas, running through the whole Puritan ethic, according to 
which the duty to love one's neighbour is satisfied by fulfilling God's 
commandments to increase His glory. The neighbour thereby receives 
all that is due him, and anything further is God's affair. Humanity 
in relation to one's neighbour has, so to speak, died out. That is 
indicated by the most various circumstances. 

Thus, to mention a remnant of that atmosphere, in the field of 
charity of the Reformed Church, which in certain respects is justly 
famous, the Amsterdam orphans, with (in the twentieth century!) 
their coats and trousers divided vertically into a black and a red, or 
a red and a green half, a sort of fool's costume, and brought in 
parade formation to church, formed, for the feelings of the past, a 
highly uplifting spectacle. It served the glory of God precisely to 
the extent that all personal and human feelings were necessarily 
insulted by it. And so, as we shall see later, even in all the details 
of private life. Naturally all that signified only a tendency and we 
shall later ourselves have to make certain qualifications. But as one 
very important tendency of this ascetic faith, it was necessary to 
point it out here. 

35. In all these respects the ethic of Port Royal, although pre- 
destinationist, takes quite a different standpoint on account of its 
mystical and otherworldly orientation, which is in so far Catholic 
(see Honigsheim, op. cit.). 

36. Hundeshagen (Beitr. z. Kirchenverfassungsgesch. u. Kirchen- 
politik, 1864, I, p. 37) takes the view, since often repeated, that 
predestination was a dogma of the theologians, not a popular doctrine. 
But that is only true if the people is identified with the mass of the 
uneducated lower classes. Even then it has only limited validity. 
Köhler {op. cit) found that in the forties of the nineteenth century 
just those masses (meaning the petite bourgeoisie of Holland) were 
thoroughly imbued with predestination. Anyone who denied the 
double decree was to them a heretic and a condemned soul. He 
himself was asked about the time of his rebirth (in the sense of pre- 
destination). Da Costa and the separation of de Kock were greatly 
influenced by it. Not only Croniwell, in whose case Zeller {Das 
Theologische System Zwinglis, p. 17) has already shown the effects of 
the dogma most effectively, but also his army knew very well what 
it was about. Moreover, the canons of the synods of Dordrecht and 
Westminster- were national questions of the first importance. Crom- 
well's tryers and ejectors admitted only believers in predestination, 
and Baxter {Life, I, p. 72), although he was otherwise its opponent, 
considers its effect on the quality of the clergy to be important. That 
the Reformed Pietists, the- members of the English and Dutch con- 
venticles, should not have imderstood the doctrine is quite impossible. 
It was precisely what drove them together to seek the certitudo salutis. 



What significance the doctrine of predestination does or does not 
have when it remains a dogma of the theologians is shown by perfectly 
orthodox Catholicism, to which it was by no means strange as an 
esoteric doctrine under various forms. What is important is that the 
idea of the individual's obligation to consider himself of the elect 
and prove it to himself was always denied. Compare for the Catholic 
doctrine, for instance, A. Van Wyck, Tract, de prcedestinatione 
(Cologne, 1708). To what extent Pascal's doctrine of predestination 
was correct, we cannot inquire here. 

Hundeshagen, who dislikes the doctrine, evidently gets his im- 
pressions primarily from German sources. His antipathy is based on 
the purely deductive opinion that it necessarily leads to moral 
fatalism and antinomianism. This opinion has already been refuted 
by Zeller, op. cit. That such a result was possible cannot, of course, 
be denied. Both Melanchthon and Wesley speak of it. But it is charac- 
teristic that in both cases it is combined with an emotional religion 
of faith. For them, lacking the rational idea of proof, this consequence 
was in fact not unnatural. 

The same consequences appeared in Islam. But why? Because the 
Mohammedan idea was that of predetermination, not predestination, 
and was applied to fate in this world, not in the next. In consequence 
the most important thing, the proof of the believer in predestination, 
played no part in Islam. Thus only the fearlessness of the warrior 
(as in the case of moira) could result, but there were no consequences 
for rationalization of life; there was no religious sanction for them. 
See the (Heidelberg) theological dissertation of F. Ullrich, Die 
Vorherhestimmungslehre itn Islam u. Christenheit, 1900. The modifi- 
cations of the doctrine which came in practice, for instance Baxter, 
did not disturb it in essence so long as the idea that the election of 
God, and its proof, fell upon the concrete individual, was not shaken. 
Finally, and above all, all the great men of Puritanism (in the broadest 
sense) took their departure from this doctrine, whose terrible serious- 
ness deeply influenced their youthful development. Milton like, in 
declining order it is true, Baxter, and, still later, the free-thinker 
Franklin. Their later emancipation from its strict interpretation is 
directly parallel to the development which the religious movement 
as a whole underwent in the same direction. And all the great religious 
revivals, at least in Holland, and most of those in England, took it 

37. As is true in such a striking way of the basic atmosphere of 
Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. 

38. This question meant less to the later Lutheran, even apart 
from the doctrine of predestination, than to the Calvinist. Not because 
he was less interested in the salvation of his soul, but because, in the 
form which the Lutheran Church had taken, its character as an 
institution for salvation (Heilsanstalt) came to the fore. The individual 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

thus felt himself to be an object of its care and dependent on it. 
The problem was first raised within Lutheranism characteristically 
enough through the Pietist movement. The question of certitudo 
salutis itself has, however, for every non -sacramental religion of 
salvation, whether Buddhism, Jainism, or anything else, been abso- 
lutely fundamental; that must not be forgotten. It has been the 
origin of all psychological drives of a purely religious character. 

39. Thus expressly in the letter to Bucer, Corp. Ref. 29, p. 883 f. 
Compare with that again Scheibe, op. cit., p. 30. 

40. The Westminster Confession (XVIII, p. 2) also assures the 
elect of indubitable certainty of grace, although with all our activity 
we remain useless servants and the struggle against evil lasts one's 
whole life long. But even the chosen one often has to struggle long 
and hard to attain the certitudo which the consciousness of having 
done his duty gives him and of which a true believer will never 
entirely be deprived. 

41. The orthodox Calvinistic doctrine referred to faith and the 
consciousness of community with God in the sacraments, and men- 
tioned the "other fruits of the Spirit" only incidentally. See the 
passages in Heppe, op. cit., p. 425. Calvin himself most emphatically 
denied that works were indications of favour before God, although 
he, like the Lutherans, considered them the fruits of belief {Instit. 
Christ, 111,2, 37, 38). The actual evolution to the proof of faith through 
works, which is characteristic of asceticism, is parallel to a gradual 
modification of the doctrines of Calvin. As with Luther, the true 
Church was first marked off primarily by purity of doctrine and 
sacraments, but later the disciplina came to be placed on an equal 
footing with the other two. This evolution may be followed in the 
passages given by Heppe, op. cit., pp. 194-5, as well as in the manner 
in which Church members were acquired in the Netherlands by the 
end of the sixteenth century (express subjection by agreement to 
Church discipline as the principal prerequisite). 

42. For example, Olevian, De substantia fcederis gratuiti inter 
Deum et electos (1585), p. 257; Heidegger, Corpus Theologice, XXIV, 
p. 87; and other passages in Heppe, Dogmatik der ev. ref. Kirche 
(1861), p. 425- 

43. On this point see the remarks of Schneckenburger, op. cit., p. 48. 

44. Thus, for example, in Baxter the distinction between mortal 
and venial sin reappears in a truly Catholic sense. The former is a 
sign of the lack of grace which can only be attained by the conversion 
of one's whole life. The latter is not incompatible with grace. 

45. As held in many difTerent shades by Baxter, Bailey, Sedgwick, 
Hoombeek. Further see examples given by Schneckenburger, op. 
cit., p. 262. 

46. The conception of the state of grace as a sort of social estate 
(somewhat like that of the ascetics of the early Church) is very common. 



See for instance Schortinghuis, Het innige Christendom U740 
proscribed by the States-General) ! 

47. Thus, as we shall see later, in countless passages, especially 
the conclusion, of Baxter's Christian Directory. This recommendation 
of worldly activity as a means of overcoming one's own feeling of 
moral inferiority is reminiscent of Pascal's psychological interpretation 
of the impulse of acquisition and ascetic activity as means to deceive 
oneself about one's own moral worthlessness. For him the belief in 
predestination and the conviction of the original sinfulness of every- 
thing pertaining to the flesh resulted only in renunciation of the 
world and the recommendation of contemplation as the sole means 
of lightening the burden of sin and attaining certainty of salvation. 
Of the orthodox Catholic and the Jansenist versions of the idea of 
calling an acute analysis has been made by Dr. Paul Honigsheim in 
the dissertation cited above (part of a larger study, which it is hoped 
will be continued). The Jansenists lacked every trace of a connection 
between certainty of salvation and worldly activity. Their concept of 
calling has, even more strongly than the Lutheran or even the orthodox 
Catholic, the sense of acceptance of the situation in life in which one 
finds oneself, sanctioned not only, as in Catholicism by the social 
order, but also by the voice of one's own conscience (Honigsheim, 
op. cit., pp. 139 ff.). 

48. The very lucidly written sketch of Lobstein in the Festgabe 
für H. Holtzmann, which starts from his view-point, may also be 
compared with the following. It has been criticized for too sharp an 
emphasis on the certitudo salutis. But just at this point Calvin's 
theology must be distinguished from Calvinism, the theological 
system from the needs of religious practice. All the religious move- 
ments which have affected large masses have started from the 
question, "How can I become certain of my salvation?" As we have 
said, it not only plays a central part in this case but in the history of 
all religions, even in India. And could it well be otherwise? 

49. Of course it cannot be denied that the full development of 
this conception did not take place until late Lutheran times (Prastorius, 
Nicolai, Meisner). It is present, however, even in Johannes Gerhard, 
quite in the sense meant here. Hence Ritschl in Book IV of his 
Geschichte des Pietismus (II, pp. 3 ff.) interprets the introduction of 
this concept into Lutheranism as a Renaissance or an adoption of 
Catholic elements. He does not deny (p. 10) that the problem of 
individual salvation was the same for Luther as for the Catholic 
Mystics, but he believes that the solution was precisely opposite in 
the t\Vo cases. I can, of course, have no competent opinion of my 
own. That the atmosphere of Die Freiheit eines Christenmenschen is 
different, on the one hand, from the sweet flirtation with the liebem 
Jesulein of the later writers, and on the other from Tauler's religious 
feeling, is naturally obvious to anyone. Similarly the retention of 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

the mystic-magical element in Luther's doctrines of the Communion 
certainly has different religious motives from the Bemhardine piety, 
the "Song of Songs feeling" to wliich Ritschl again and again returns 
as the source of the bridal relations with Christ. But might not, among 
other things, that doctrine of the Communion have favoured the 
revival of mystical religious emotions? Further, it is by no means 
accurate to say that (p. 1 1, op. cit.) the freedom of the mystic consisted 
entirely in isolation from the world. Especially Tauler has, in passages 
which from the point of view of the psychology of religion are very 
interesting, maintained that the order which is thereby brought 
into thoughts concerning worldly activities is one practical result of 
the nocturnal contemplation which he recommends, for instance, in 
case of insomnia. "Only thereby [the mystical union with God at 
night before going to sleep] is reason clarified and the brain 
strengthened, and man is the whole day the more peacefully and 
divinely guided by virtue of the inner discipline of having truly 
united himself with God : then all his works shall be set in order. 
And thus when a man has forewarned (= prepared) himself of his 
work, and has placed his trust in virtue; then if he comes into the 
world, his works shall be virtuous and divine" {Predigten, fol. 318). 
Thus we see, and we shall return to the point, that mystic con- 
templation and a rational attitude toward the calling are not in them- 
selves mutually contradictory. The opposite is only true when the 
religion takes on a directly hysterical character, which has not been 
the case with all mystics nor even all Pietists. 

50. On this see the introduction to the following essays on the Wirt- 
schaftsethik der Weltreligionen (not included in this translation : German 
in Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Religionssoi^iologie. — Translator's Note). 

51". In this assumption Calvinism has a point of contact with 
official Catholicism. But for the Catholics there resulted the necessity 
of the sacrament of repentance; for the Reformed Church that of 
practical proof through activity in the world. 

52. See, for instance, Beza {De prcedestinat doct. ex preelect. in 
Rom 9a, Raph. Eglino exc. 1584), p. 133: "Sicut ex operibus vere 
bonis ad sanctificationis donum, a sanctificatione ad fidem — ascendi- 
mus: ita ex certis illis effectis non quamvis vocationem, sed efficacem 
illam et ex hac vocatione electionem et ex electione donum prae- 
destinationis in Christo tarn firmam quam immotus est Dei thronus 
certissima connexione effectorum et causarum colligimus. . . ," Only 
with regard to the signs of damnation is it necessary to be careful, 
since it is a matter of final judgment. On this point the Puritans first 
differed. See further the thorough discussion of Schneckenburger, 
op. cit., who to be sure only cites a limited category of literature. In 
the whole Puritan literature this aspect comes out. "It will not be 
said, did you believe? — but: were you Doers or Talkers only?" says 
Bunyan. According to Baxter {The Saints' Everlasting Rest, chap, xii), 


who teaches the mildest form of predestination, faith means sub- 
jection to Christ in heart and in deed, "Do what you are able first, 
and then complain of God for denying you grace if you have cause", 
was his answer to the objection that the will was not free and God 
alone was able to insure salvation {Works of the Puritan Divines, IV, 
p. 155). The investigation of Fuller (the Church historian) was 
limited to the one question of practical proof and the indications of 
his state of grace in his conduct. The same with Howe in the passage 
referred to elsewhere. Any examination of the Works of the Puritan 
Divines gives ample proofs. 

Not seldom the conversion to Puritanism was due to Catholic 
ascetic writings, thus, with Baxter, a Jesuit tract. These conceptions 
were not wholly new compared with Calvin's own doctrine {Instit. 
Christ, chap, i, original edition of 1536, pp. 97, 113). Only for Calvin 
himself the certainty of salvation could not be attained in this manner 
(p. 147). Generally one referred to i John iii. 5 and similar passages. 
The demand for fides efficax is not — to anticipate — limited to the 
Calvinists. Baptist confessions of faith deal, in the article on pre- 
destination, similarly with the fruits of faith ("and that its — of re- 
generation — proper evidence appears in the holy fruits of repentance 
and faith and newness of life" — Article 7 of the Confession printed in 
the Baptist Church Manual by J. N. Brown, D.D., Philadelphia, 
Am. Bapt. Pub. Soc). In the same way the tract (under Alennonite 
influence), Oliif-Tacxken, which the Harlem Synod adopted in 1649, 
begins on page i with the question of how the children of God are to be 
known, and answers (p. 10) : "Nu al is't dat dasdanigh vruchtbare ghe- 
love alleene zii het seker fondamentale kennteeken — om de conscientien 
der gelovigen in het nieuwe verbondt der genade Gods te versekeren." 

53. Of the significance of this for the material content of social 
ethics some hint has been given above. Here we are interested not in 
the content, but in the motives of moral action. 

54. How this idea must have promoted the penetration of Puritan- 
ism with the Old Testament Hebrew spirit is evident. 

55. Thus the Savoy Declaration says of the members of the ecclesia 
piira that they are "saints by effectual calling, visibly manifested by 
their profession and walking". 

56. "A Principle of Goodness", Charnock in the Works nf the 
Puritan Divines, p. 175. 

57. Conversion is, as Sedgwick puts it, an "exact copy of the 
decree of predestination". And whoever is chosen is also called to 
obedience and made capable of it, teaches Bailey. Only those whom 
God calls to His faith (which is expressed in their conduct) are true 
believers, not merely temporary believers, according to the (Baptist) 
Confession of Hanserd KnoUy. 

58. Compare, for instance, the conclusion to Baxter's Christian 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

59. Thus, for instance, Chamock, Self -Examination, p. 183, in 
refutation of the Catholic doctrine of dubitatio. 

60. This argument recurs again and again in Hoornbeek, Theo- 
logia practica. For instance, I, p. 160; II, pp. 70, 72, 182. 

61. For instance, the Conf. Helvet, 16, says "et improprie his 
[the works] salus adtribuitur" . 

62. With all the above compare Schneckenburger, pp. 80 ff. 

63. Augustine is supposed to have said "si non es praedestinatus, 
fac ut praedestineris". 

64. One is reminded of a saying of Goethe with essentially the 
same meaning: "How can a man know himself? Never by observation, 
but through action. Try to do your duty and you will know what is in 
you. And what is your duty? Your daily task." 

65. For though Calvin himself held that saintliness must appear 
on the surface {Instit. Christ, IV, pp. i, 2, 7, 9), the dividing-line 
between saints and sinners must ever remain hidden from human 
knowledge. We must believe that where God's pure word is alive in 
a Church, organized and administered according to His law, some 
of the elect, even though we do not know them, are present. 

66. The Calvinistic faith is one of the many examples in the 
history of religions of the relation between the logical and the psycho- 
logical consequences for the practical religious attitude to be derived 
from certain religious ideas. Fatalism is, of course, the only logical 
consequence of predestination. But on account of the idea of proof 
the psychological result was precisely the opposite. For essentially 
similar reasons the followers of Nietzsche claim a positive ethical 
significance for the idea of eternal recurrence. This case, however, 
is concerned with responsibility for a future life which is connected 
with the active individual by no conscious thread of continuity, 
while for the Puritan it was tua res agitur. Even Hoornbeek {Theologia 
practica, I, p. 159) analyses the relation between predestination and 
action well in the language of the times. The electi are, on account of 
their election, proof against fatalism because in their rejection of it 
they prove themselves "quos ipsa electio sollicitos reddit et diligentes 
officiorum". The practical interests cut off the fatalistic consequences 
of logic (which, however, in spite of everything occasionally did 
break through). 

But, on the other hand, the content of ideas of a religion is, as 
Calvinism shows, far more important than William James {Varieties 
of Religious Experience, 1902, p. 444 f.) is inclined to admit. The 
significance of the rational element in religious metaphysics is shown 
in classical form by the tremendous influence which especially the 
logical structure of the Calvinistic concept of God exercised on' life. 
If the God of the Puritans has influenced history as hardly another 
before or since, it is principally due to the attributes which the power 
of thought had given him. James's pragmatic valuation of the signi- 
ficance of religious ideas according to their influence on life is inci- 



dentally a true child of the world of ideas of the Puritan home of that 
eminent scholar. The religious experience as such is of course irrational, 
like every experience. In its highest, mystical form it is even the 
experience Kax' i^oxv^, and, as James has w^cll shown, is distinguished 
by its absolute inconununicability. It has a specific character and 
appears as knowledge, but cannot be adequately reproduced by means 
of our lingual and conceptual apparatus. It is further true that every 
religious experience loses some of its content in the attempt of rational 
formulation, the further the conceptual formulation goes, the more 
so. That is the reason for many of the tragic conflicts of all rational 
theology, as the Baptist sects of the seventeenth century already 
knew. But that irrational element, which is by no means peculiar to 
religious experience, but applies (in different senses and to different 
degrees) lo every experience, does not prevent its being of the greatest 
practical importance, of what particular type the system of ideas is, 
that captures and moulds the immediate experience of religion in its 
own way. For from this source develop, in times of great influence 
of the Church on life and of strong interest in dogmatic considerations 
within it, most of those differences between the various religions in 
their ethical consequences which are of such great practical importance. 
How unbelievably intense, measured by present standards, the dog- 
matic interests even of the layman were, everyone knows who is 
familiar with the historical sources. We can find a parallel to-day 
only in the at bottom equally superstitious belief of the modern 
proletariat in what can be accomplished and proved by science. 

67. Baxter, The Saints' Everlasting Rest, I, p. 6, answers to the 
question: "Whether to make salvation our end be not mercenary 
or legal? It is properly mercenary when we expect it as wages for 
work done. . . . Otherwise it is only such a mercenarism as Christ 
commandeth . . . and if seeking Christ be mercenary, I desire to be 
so mercenary." Nevertheless, many Calvinists who are considered 
orthodox do not escape falling into a very crass sort of mercenariness. 
According to Bailey, Praxis pietatis, p. 262, alms are a means of 
escaping temporal punishment. Other theologians urged the damned 
to perform good works, since their damnation might thereby become 
somewhat more bearable, but the elect because God will then not 
only love them without cause but ob causam, which shall certainly 
sometime have its reward. The apologists have also made certain 
small concessions concerning the significance of good works for the 
degree of salvation (Schneckenburger, op. cit., p. loi). 

68. Here also it is absolutely necessary, in order to bring out the 
characteristic differences, to speak in terms of ideal types, thus in a 
certain sense doing violence to historical reality. But without this a 
clear formulation would be quite impossible considering the com- 
plexity of the material. In how far the differences which we here 
draw as sharply as possible were merely relative, would have to be 
discussed separately. It is, of course, true that the official Catholic 

R 233 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

doctrine, even in the Middle Ages, itself set up the ideal of a systematic 
sanctification of life as a whole. But it is just as certain (i) that the 
normal practice of the Church, directly on account of its most effective 
means of discipline, the confession, promoted the unsystematic way 
of life discussed in the text, and further (2) that the fundamentally 
rigorous and cold atmosphere in which he lived and the absolute 
isolation of the Calvinst were utterly foreign te mediaeval lay- 

69. The absolutely fundamental importance of this factor will, as 
has already once been pointed out, gradually become clear in the 
essays on the Wirtschaftsethik der Weltreligionen. 

70. And to a certain extent also to the Lutheran. Luther did not 
wish to eliminate this last vestige of sacramental magic. 

"^i. Compare, for instance, Sedg%vick, Buss- und Gnadenlehre 
(German by Roscher, 1689). The repentant man has a fast rule to 
which he holds himself exactly, ordering thereby his whole life and 
conduct (p. 591). He lives according to the law, shrewdly, wakefully, 
and carefully (p. 596). Only a permanent change in the whole man 
can, since it is a result of predestination, cause this (p. 852). True 
repentance is always expressed in conduct (p. 361). The difference 
between only morally good work and opera spiritualia lies, as Hoorn- 
beek {op. cit., I, IX, chap, ii) explains, in the fact that the latter are 
the results of a regenerate life {op. cit., I, p. 160). A continuous 
progress in them is discernible which cap only be achieved by the 
supernatural influence of God's grace (p. 150). Salvation results from 
the transformation of the whole man through the grace of God 
(p. 190 f.). These ideas are common to all Protestantism, and are of 
course found in the highest ideals of Catholicism as well. But their 
consequences could only appear in the Puritan movements of worldly 
asceticism, and above all only in those cases did they have adequate 
psychological sanctions . 

72. The latter name is, especially in Holland, derived from those 
who modelled their lives precisely on the example of the Bible (thus 
with Voet). Moreover, the name Methodists occurs occasionally 
among the Puritans in the seventeenth century. 

,.^73. For, as the Puritan preachers emphasize (for instance Banyan 
in the Pharisee and the Publican, Works of the Puritan Divines, p. 126), 
every single sin would destroy everything which might have been 
accumulated in the way of merit by good works in a lifetime, if, 
which is unthinkable, man were alone able to accomplish anything 
which God should necessarily recognize as meritorious, or even 
could live in perfection for any length of time. Thus Puritanism did 
not think as did Catholicism in terms of a sort of account with calcu- 
lation of the balance, a simile which was common even in antiquity, 
but of the definite alternative of grace or damnation held for a life as 
a whole. For suggestions of the banlt account idea see note 102 below. 


74. Therein lies the distinction from the mere Legality and Civility 
which Bunyan has living as associates of Mr. Worldly-Wiseman in 
the City called Morality. 

75. Chamock, Self -Examination {Works of the Puritan Divines, 
p. 172): "Reflection and knowledge of self is a prerogative of a 
rational nature." Also the footnote: "Cogito, ergo sum, is the first 
principle of the new philosophy." 

76. This is not yet the place to discuss the relationship of the^ 
theology of Duns Scotus to certain ideas of ascetic Protestantism. It 
never gained official recognition, but was at best tolerated and at 
times proscribed. The later specific repugnance of the Pietists to 
Aristotelean philosophy was shared by Luther, in a somewhat different 
sense, and also by Calvin in conscious antagonism to Catholicism 
(cf. Instit. Christ, II, chap, xii, p. 4 ; IV, chap, xvii, p. 24). The "primacy 
of the will", as Kahl has put it, is common to all these movements. 

77. Thus, for instance, the article on "Asceticism" in the Catholic 
Church Lexicon defines its meaning entirely in harmony with its 
highest historical manifestations. Similarly Seeberg in the Realenzy- 
klopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche. For the purpose of 
this study we must be allowed to use the concept as we have done. 
That it can be defined in other ways, more broadly as well as more 
narrowly, and is generally so defined, I am well aware. 

78. In Hudibras {ist Song, 18, 19) the Puritans are compare(P 
with the bare-foot Franciscans. A report of the Genoese Ambassador, 
Fieschi, calls Cromwell's army an assembly of monks. 

79. In view of the close relationship between otherworldly monastic ' 
asceticism and active worldly asceticism, which I here expressly 
maintain, I am surprised to find Brentano {op. cit., p. 134 and else- 
where) citing the ascetic labour of the monks and its recommendation 
against me. His whole "Exkurs" against me culminates in that. But 
that continuity is, as anyone can see, a fundamental postulate of 
my whole thesis : the Reformation took rational Christian asceticism 
and its methodical habits out of the monasteries and placed them in 
the service of active life in the world. Compare the following dis- 
cussion, which has not been altered. 

80. So in the many reports of the trials of Puritan heretics cited 
in Neal's History of the Puritans and Crosby's English Baptists. 

81. Sanford, op. cit. (and both before and after him many others), 
has found the origin of the ideal of reserve in Puritanism. Compare 
on that ideal also the remarks of James Bryce on the American college 
in Vol. II of his American Commotizvealth. The ascetic principle of 
self-control also riiade Puritanism one of the fathers of modern 
military discipline. (On Maurice of Orange as a founder of modern 
army organization, see Roloff, Preuss. Jahrb., 1903, III, p. 255.) Crom- 
well's Ironsides, with cocked pistols in their hands, and approaching 
the enemy at a brisk trot without shooting, were not the superiors of 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

the Cavaliers by virtue of their fierce passion, but, on the contrary, 
through their cool self-control, which enabled their leaders always 
to keep them well in hand. The knightly storm-attack of the Cavaliers, 
on the other hand, always resulted in dissolving their troops into 
atoms. See Firth, Cromwell's Army. 

82. See especially Windelband, Ueber Willensfreiheit, pp. 77 ff, 

83. Only not so unmixed. Contemplation, sometimes combined 
with emotionalism, is often combined with these rational elements. 
But again contemplation itself is methodically regulated. 

84. According to Richard Baxter everything is sinful which is 
contrary to the reason given by God as a norm of action. Not only 
passions which have a sinful content, but all feelings which are 
senseless and intemperate as such. They destroy the countenance 
and, as things of the flesh, prevent us from rationally directing all 
action and feeling to God, and thus insult Him. Compare what is 
said of the sinfulness of anger {Christian Directory, second edition, 
1698, p. 285. Tauler is öited on p. 287). On the sinfulness of anxiety, 
Ebenda, I, p. 287. That it is idolatry if our appetite is made the "rule 
or measure of eating" is maintained very emphatically (op. cit., I, 
pp. 310, 316, and elsewhere). In such discussions reference is made 
everywhere to the Proverbs and also to Plutarch's De tranquilitate 
Animi, afid not seldom to ascetic writings of the Middle Ages: St. 
Bernard, Bonaventura, and others. The contrast to "who does not 
love wine, women, and song . . ." could hardly be more sharply 
drawn than by the extension of '' ''^a of idolatry to all sensuous 
pleasures, so far as they are rf vy hygienic considerations, 
in which case they (like . .ihese limits, but also other 
recreations) are permissible. L "^^ Thapter V) for further dis- 
cussion. Please note that the' > i<.:d to here and elsewhere 
are neither dogmatic nor edfi} \ .iKS, but grew out of practical 
ministry, and thus give a good picture of the direction which its 
influence took. 

85. I should regret it if any evaluation of one or the other form 
of religion should be read into this discussion. We are not concerned 
with that here. It is only a question of the influence of certain things 
which, from a purely religious point of view, are perhaps incidental, 
but important for practical conduct. 

86. On this, see especially the article "Moralisten, englische", by 
E. Troeltsch, in the Realenzyklopädie für protestantische Theologie 
und Kirche, third edition. 

87. How much influence quite definite religious ideas and situations, 
which seem to be historical accidents, have had is shown unusually 
clearly by the fact that in the circles of Pietism of a Reformed origin 
the lack of monasteries was occasionally directly regretted, and that 
the communistic experiments of Labadie and others were simply a 
substitute for monastic life. 



88. As early even as several confessions of the time of the Refor- 
mation. Even Ritschl {Pietismus, I, p. 258 f.) does not deny, although 
he looks upon the later development as a deterioration of the ideas 
of the Reformation, that, for instance, in Conf. Gall. 25, 26, Conf. 
Belg. 29, Conf. Helv. post, 17, the true Reformed Church was defined 
by definitely empirical attributes, and that to this true Church 
believers were not accounted without the attribute of moral activity. 
(See above, note 42.) 

89. "Bless God that we are not of the many" (Thomas Adams. 
Works of the Puritan Divines, p. 138). 

90. The idea of the birthright, so important in history, thus 
received an important confiimation in England. "The firstborn 
which are written in heaven. ... As the firstborn is not to be 
defeated in his inheritance, and the enrolled names are never to be 
obliterated, so certainly they shall inherit eternal life" (Thomas Adams, 
Works of the Puritan Divines, p. xiv). 

91. The Lutheran emphasis on penitent grief is foreign to the spirit 
of ascetic Calvinism, not in theory, but definitely in practice. For it 
is of no ethical value to the Calvinist; it does not help the damned, 
while for those certain of their election, their own sin, so far as they 
admit it to themselves, is a symiptom of backwardness in development. 
Instead of repenting of it they hate it and attempt to overcome it by 
activity for the glory of God. Compare the explanation of Howe 
(Cromwell's chaplain 1656-58) in Of Men's Enmity against God and 
of Reconciliation between G ^ Man {Works of English Puritan 
Divines, p. 237): "The cr ..ejimity against God. It is the 
mind, therefore, not as spec. / .^ ,y, but as practical and active 
thatmust be renewed", an ' econciliation . . . must begin in 
(i) a deep conviction . . ,. ' . ner enmity. ... I have been 
alienated from God. ... (2) (p,. ,. . ,iear and lively apprehension of 
the monstrous iniquity and wickedness thereof." The hatred here is 
that of sin, not of the sinner. But as early as the famous letter of the 
Duchess Renata d'Este (Leonore's mother) to Calvin, in which she 
speaks of the hatred which she would feel toward her father and 
husband if she became convinced they belonged to the damned, is 
shown the transfer to the person. At the same time it is an example 
of what was said above [pp. 104-6] of how the individual became 
loosed from the ties resting on his natural feelings, for which the doc- 
trine of predestination was responsible. 

92. "None but those who give evidence of being regenerate or 
holy persons ought to be received or counted fit members of visible 
Churches. Where this is wanting, the very essence of a Church is lost", 
as the principle is put by Owen, the Independent-Calvinistic Vice- 
Chancellor of Oxford under Cromwell {Inv. into the Origin of Ev. Ch.). 
Further, see the following essay (not translated here. — Trans l.'VTOR) . 

93. See following essay. 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

94. Cat. Genev., p. 149. Bailey, Praxis pietatis, p. 125: "In life we 
should act as though no one but Moses had authority over us." 

95. "The law appears to the Calvinist as an ideal norm of action. 
It oppresses the Lutheran because it is for him unattainable." In the 
Lutheran catechism it stands at the beginning in order to arouse the 
necessary humility, in the Reformed catechism it generally stands after 
the Gospel. The Calvinists accused the Lutherans of having a "virtual 
reluctance to becoming holy" (Möhler), while the Lutherans accused 
the Calvinists of an "unfree servitude to the law", and of arrogance. 

96. Studies and Reflections of the Great Rebellion, pp. 79 f. 

97. Among them the Song of Songs is especially noteworthy. 
It was for the most part simply ignored by the Puritans. Its Oriental 
eroticism has influenced the development of certain types of religion, 
such as that of St. Bernard. 

98. On the necessity of this self-observation, see the sermon of 
Charnock, already referred to, on 2 Cor. xiii. 5, Works of the Puritan 
Divines, pp. 161 ff. 

99. Most of the theological moralists recommended it. Thus 
Baxter, Christian Directory, II, pp. 77 ff., who, however, does not 
gloss over its dangers. 

100. Moral book-keeping has, of course, been widespread elsewhere. 
But the emphasis which was placed upon it as the sole means of 
knowledge of the eternal decree of salvation or damnation was lacking, 
and with it the most important psychological sanction for care and 
exactitude in this calculation. 

xoi. This was the significant difference from other attitudes which 
were superficially similar. 

102. Baxter {Saints' Everlasting Rest, chap, xii) explains God's 
invisibility with the remark that just as one can carry on profitable 
trade with an invisible foreigner through correspondence, so is it 
possible by means of holy commerce with an invisible God to get 
possession of the one priceless pearl. These commercial similes 
rather than the forensic ones customary with the older moralists and 
the Lutherans are thoroughly characteristic of Puritanism, which in 
effect makes man buy his own salvation. Compare further the follow- 
ing passage from a sermon: "We reckon the value of a thirtg by that 
which a wise man will give for it, who is not ignorant of it nor under 
necessity. Christ, the Wisdom of God, gave Himself, His own precious 
blood, to redeem souls, and He knew what they were and had no 
need of them" (Matthew Henry, The Worth of the Soul, Works of 
the Puritan Divines, p. 313). 

103. In contrast to that, Luther himself said: "Weeping goes 
before action and suffering excells all accomplishment" (Weinen geht 
vor Wirken und Leiden übertrifft alles tun). 

104. This is also shown most clearly in the development of the 
ethical theory of Lutheranism. On this see Hoennicke, Studien zur 



altprotestantischen Ethik (Berlin, 1902), and the instructive review of 
it by E. Troeltsch, Gott. Gel. Anz., 1902, No, 8. The approach of 
the Lutheran doctrine, especially to the older orthodox Calvinistic, 
was in form often very close. But the difference of religious back- 
ground was always apparent. In order to establish a connection 
between morality and faith, Melanchthon had placed the idea of 
repentance in the foreground. Repentance through the law must 
precede faith, but good works must follow it, otherwise it cannot 
be the truly justifying faith — almost a Puritan formula. Melanchthon 
admitted a certain degree of perfection to be attainable on earth. He 
had, in fact, originally taught that justification was given in order to 
make men capable of good works, and in increasing perfection lay 
at least the relative degree of blessedness which faith could give in 
this world. Also later Lutheran theologians held that good works are 
the necessary fruits of faith, that faith results in a new external life, 
just as the Reformed preachers did. The question in what good works 
consist Melanchthon, and especially the later Lutherans, answered 
more and more by reference to the law. There remained of Luther's 
original doctrines only the lesser degree of seriousness with which 
the Bible, especially the particular norms of the Old Testament, was 
taken. The decalogue remained, as a codification of the most im- 
portant ideas of the natural moral law, the essential norm of human 
action. But there was no firm link connecting its legal validity with 
the more and more strongly emphasized importance of faith for 
justification, because this faith (see above) had a fundamentally 
different psychological character from the Calvinistic. 

The true Lutheran standpoint of the early period had to be 
abandoned by a Church which looked upon itself as an institution 
for salvation. But another had not been found. Especially was it 
impossible, for fear of losing their dogmatic foundation (sola fide!), 
to accept the ascetic rationalization of conduct as the moral task of 
the individual. For there was no motive to give the idea of proof 
such a significance as it attained in Calvinism through the doctrine 
of predestination. Moreover, the magical interpretation of the sacra- 
ments, combined with the lack of this doctrine, especially the asso- 
ciation of the regeneratio, or at least its beginning with baptism, 
necessarily, assuming as it did the universality of grace, hindered 
the development of methodical morality. For it weakened the contrast 
between the state of nature and the state of grace, especially when 
combined with the strong Lutheran emphasis on original sin. No less 
important was the entirely forensic interpretation of the act of justi- 
fication which assumed that God's decrees might be changed through 
the influence of particular acts of repentance of the converted sinner. 
And that was just the element to which Melanchthon gave increasing 
emphasis. The whole development of his doctrine, which gave 
increasing weight to repentance, was intimately connected with his 


The ProteMant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

profession of the freedom of the will. That was what primarily 
determined the- uwrnethodical character of Lutheran conduct. 

Particular ac ts of grace for particular sins, not the development 
of an aristoci'ac"./ of saints creating the certainty of their own salvation, 
was the nece^ssary form salvation took for the average Lutheran, as 
the retention c^f the confession proves. Thus it could develop neither 
a morality free from the law nor a rational asceticism in terms of the 
law. Rather the law remained in an unorganic proximity to faith as 
an ideal, and, moreover, since the strict dependence on the Bible 
was avoided as sui?gesting salvation by works, it remained uncertain, 
vague, and, above all, unsystematic in its content. Their conduct 
remained, as Troelitsch has said of their ethical theory, a "sum of 
mere beginnings wh,*^ch never quite materialized"; which, "taught in 
particular, uncertain, and unrelated maxims", did not succeed in 
"working out an articulate system of conduct", but formed essentially, 
following the development through which Luther himself (see above) 
had gone, a resignation to things as they were in matters both small 
and great. The resignation of the Germans to foreign cultures, their 
rapid change of nationality, of which there is so much complaint, is 
clearly to be attributed, along with certain political circumstances in 
the history of the nation, in part to the results of this influence, 
which still affects all aspects of our life. The subjective assimilation 
of culture remained weak because it took place primarily by means 
of a passive absorption of what was authoritatively presented. 

105. On these points, see the gossipy book of Tholuck, Vorgeschichte 
des Rationalismus. 

106. On the quite different results of the Mohammedan doctrine 
of predestination (or rather predetermination) and the reasons for 
it, see the theological disyertation (Heidelberg) of F. Ullrich, Die 
Vor herb estimmungslehre im Islam u. Ch., 19 12. On that of the Jan- 
senists, see P. Honigsheim, op. cit. 

107. See the following essay in this collection (not translated here). 

108. Ritschl, Geschichte des Pietismus, I, p. 152, attempts to dis- 
tinguish them for the time before Labadie (only on the basis of 
examples from the Netherlands) (i) in that the Pietists formed 
conventicles; (2) they held the doctrine of the "worthlessness of 
existence in the flesh" in a "manner contrary to the Protestant 
interests in salvation"; (3) "the assurance of grace in the tender 
relationship with the Lord Jesus" was sought in an un-Calvinistic 
manner. The last criterion applies for this early period only to one 
of the cases with which he deals. The idea of worthlessness of the 
flesh was in itself a true child of the Calvinistic spirit, and only 
where it led to practical renunciation of the world was it antagonistic 
to normal Protestantism. The conventicles, finally, had been estab- 
lished to a certain extent (especially for catechistic purposes) by 
the Synod of Dordrecht itself. Of the criteria of Pietism analysed 



in Ritschl's previous discussion, those worth considering are (i) the 
greater precision with which the letter of the Bible was followed in 
all external affairs of life, as Gisbert Voet for a time urged; (2) the 
treatment of justification and reconciliation with God, not as ends 
in themselves, but simply as means toward a holy ascetic life as can 
be seen perhaps in Lodensteyn,but as is also suggested by Melanch- 
thon [see above, note 104] ; (3) the high value placed on repentance 
as a sign of true regeneration, as was first taught by W. Teellinck; 
(4) abstention from communion when unregenerate persons partake 
of it (of which we shall speak in another connection). Connected with 
that was the formation of conventicles with a revival of prophecy, 
i.e. interpretation of the Scriptures by laymen, even women. That 
went beyond the limits set by the canons of Dordrecht. 

Those are all things forming departures, sometimes considerable, 
from both the doctrine and practice of the Reformers. But compared 
with the movements which Ritschl does not include in his treatment, 
especially the English Puritans, they form, except for No. 3, only a 
continuation of tendencies which lay in the whole line of development 
of this religion. The objectivity of Ritschl's treatment suffers from 
the fact that the great scholar allows his personal attitude towards 
the Church or, perhaps better, religious policy, to enter in, and, in 
his antipathy to all peculiarly ascetic forms of religion, interprets 
any development in that direction as a step back into Catholicism. 
But, like Catholicism, the older Protestantism included all sorts and 
conditions of men. But that did not prevent the Catholic Church 
from repudiating rigorous worldly asceticism in the form of Jansenism ; 
just as Pietism repudiated the peculiar Catholic Quietism of the 
seventeenth century. From our special view-point Pietism differs not 
in degree, but in kind from Calvinism only when the increasing fear 
of the world leads to flight from ordinary economic life and the 
formation of monastic-communistic conventicles (Labadie). Or, 
which has been attributed to certain extreme Pietists by their con- 
temporaries, they were led deliberately to neglect worldly duties in 
favour of contemplation. This naturally happened with particular 
frequency when contemplation began to assume the character which 
Ritschl calls Bemardism, because it suggests St. Bernard's interpre- 
tation of the Song of Songs: a mystical, emotional form of religion 
seeking the unio mystica with an esoteric sexual tinge. Even from the 
view-point of religious psychology alone this is undoubtedly some- 
thing quite different from Calvinism, including its ascetic form 
exemplified by men like Voet. Ritschl, however, everywhere attempts 
to connect this quietism with the Pietist asceticism and thus to bring 
the latter under the same indictment; in doing so he puts his finger 
on every quotation from Catholic mysticism or asceticism which he 
can find in Pietist literature. But English and Dutch moralists and 
theologians who are quite beyond suspicion cite Bernard, Bona- 


The Protesia7jt Ethic and the - Spirit of Capitalism 

Ventura, and Thomas ä Kempis. The relationship of all the Refor- 
mation Churches to the Catholic past was very complex and, according 
to the point of view which is emphasized, one or another appears 
most closely related to Catholicism or certain sides of it. 

109. The illuminating article on "Pietism" by Mirbt in the third 
edition of the Realenzyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und 
Kirche, treats the origin of Pietism, leaving its Protestant antecedents 
entirely on one side, as a purely personal religious experience of 
Spener, which is somewhat improbable. As an introduction to Pietism, 
Gustav Freytag's description in Bilder der deutschen Vergangenheit 
is still worth reading. For the beginnings of English Pietism in the 
contemporary literature, compare W. Whitaker, Prima Institutio 
disciplinaque pietatis (1570). 

no. It is well known that this attitude made it possible for Pietism 
to be one of the main forces behind the idea of toleration. At this 
point we may insert a few remarks on that subject. In the West its 
historical origin, if we omit the humanistic indifference of the En- 
lightenment, which in itself has never had great practical influence, 
is to be found in the following principal sources: (i) Purely political 
expediency (type: William of Orange). (2) Mercantilism (especially 
clear for the City of Amsterdam, but also typical of numerous cities, 
landlords, and rulers who received the members of sects as valuable 
for economic progress). (3) The radical wing of Calvinism. Pre- 
destination made it fundamentally impossible for the State really to 
promote religion by intolerance. It could not thereby save a single 
soul. Only the idea of the glory of God gave the Church occasion to 
claim its help in the suppression of heresy. Now the greater the 
emphasis on the membership of the preacher, and all those that 
partook of the communion, in the elect, the more intolerable became 
the interference of the State in the appointment of the clergy. For 
clerical positions were often granted as benefices to men from the 
universities only because of their theological training, though they 
might be personally unregener^te. In general, any interference in the 
affairs of the religious community by those in political power, whose 
conduct might often be unsatisfactory, was resented. Reformed 
Pietism strengthened this tendency by weakening the emphasis on 
doctrinal orthodoxy and by gradually undermining the principle of 
extra ecclesiam nulla salus. 

Calvin had regarded the subjection of the damned to the divine 
supervision of the Church as alone consistent with the glory of 
God ; in New England the attempt was made to constitute the Church 
as an aristocracy of proved saints. Even the radical Independents, 
however, repudiated every interference of temporal or any sort of 
hierarchical powers with the proof of salvation which was only 
possible within the individual community. The idea that the glory 
of God requii'es the subjection of the damned to the discipline of 



the Church was gradually superseded by the other idea, which was 
present from, the beginning apd became gradually more prominent, 
that it was an insult to His glory to partake of the Communion with 
one rejected by God. That necessarily led to voluntarism, for it led 
to the believers' Church the religious community which included 
only the twice-born. Calvinistic Baptism, to which, for instance, the 
leader of the Parliament of Saints Praisegod Barebones belonged, 
drew the consequences of this line of thought with great emphasis. 
Cromwell's army upheld the liberty of conscience and the parliament 
of saints even advocated the separation of Church and State, because 
its members were good Pietists, thus on positive religious grounds. 
(4) The Baptist sects, which we shall discuss later, have from the 
beginning of their history most strongly and consistently maintained 
the principle that only those personally regenerated could be admitted 
to the Church. Hence they repudiated every conception of the Church 
as an institution {Anstalt) and every interference of the temporal 
power. Here also it was for positive religious reasons that uncondi- 
tional toleration was advocated. 

The first man who stood out for absolute toleration and the separa- 
tion of Church and State, almost a generation before the Baptists 
and two before Roger Williams, was probably John Browne. The 
first declaration of a Church group in this sense appears to be the 
resolution of the English Baptists in Amsterdam of 1612 or 1613: 
"The magistrate is not to middle with religion or matters ,of con- 
science . . . because Christ is the King and Law-giver of the Church 
and conscience." The first official document of a Church which 
claimed the positive protection of liberty of conscience by the State 
as a right was probably Article 44 of the Confession of the Particular 
Baptists of 1644. 

Let it be emphatically stated again that the idea sometimes brought 
forward, that toleration as such was favourable to capitalism, is 
naturally quite wrong. Religious toleration is neither peculiar to 
modern times nor to the West. It has ruled in China, in India, in 
the great empires of the Near East in Hellenistic times, in the Roman 
Empire and the Mohammedan Empires for long periods to a degree 
only limited by reasons of political expediency (which form its limits 
to-day also !) which was attained nowhere in the world in the sixteenth 
and seventeenth centuries. Moreover, it was least strong in those 
areas which were dominated by Puritanism, as, for instance, Holland 
and Zeeland in their period of political and economic expansion or 
in Puritan old or New England. Both before and after the Reformation, 
religious intolerance was peculiarly characteristic of the Occident as 
of the Sassanian Empire. Similarly, it has prevailed in China, Japan, 
and India at certain particular times, though mostly for political 
reasons. Thus toleration as such certainly has nothing whatever to 
do with capitalism. The real question is, Who benefited by it? Of the 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

consequences of the believers' Church we shall speak further in the 
following article. 

111. This idea is illustrated in its practical application by Crom- 
well's tryers, the examiners of candidates for the position of preacher. 
They attempted to ascertain not only the knowledge of theology, but 
also the subjective state of grace of the candidate. See also the 
following article. 

112. The characteristic Pietistic distrust of Aristotle and classical 
philosophy in general is suggested in Calvin himself (compare Instit. 
Christ, II, chap, ii, p. 4; III, chap, xxiii, p. 5; IV, chap, xvii, p. 24). 
Luther in his early days distrusted it no less, l?ut that was later changed 
by the humanistic influence (especially of Melanchthon) and the urgent 
need of ammunition for apologetic purposes. That everything neces- 
sary for salvation was contained in the Scriptures plainly enough for 
even the untutored was, of course, taught by the Westminster Confes- 
sion (chap.i, No. 7.), in conformity with the whole Protestant tradition. 

113. The official Churches protested against this, as, for example, 
in the shorter catechism of the Scotch Presbyterian Church of 1648, 
sec. vii. Participation of those not members of the same family in 
family devotions was forbidden as interference with the prerogatives 
of the office. Pietism, like every ascetic community-forming move- 
ment, tended to loosen the ties of the individual with domestic 
patriarchalism, with its interest in the prestige of office. 

114. We are here for good reasons intentionally neglecting dis- 
cussion of the psychological, in the technical sense of the word, 
aspect of these religious phenomena, and even its terminology has 
been as far as possible avoided. The firmly established results of 
psychology, including psychiatry, do not as present go far enough 
to make them of use for the purposes of the historical investigation 
of our problems without prejudicing historical judgments. The use of 
its terminology would only form a temptation to hide phenomena 
which were immediately understandable, or even sometimes trivial, 
behind a veil of foreign words, and thus give a false impression of 
scientific exactitude, such as is unfortunately typical of Lamprecht. 
For a more serious attempt to make use of psychological concepts 
in the interpretation of certain historical mass phenomena, see W. 
Hellpach, Grundlinien zu einer Psychologie der Hysterie, chap, xii, as 
well as his Nervosität und Kultur. I cannot here attempt to explain 
that in my opinion even this many-sided writer has been harmfully 
influenced by certain of Lamprecht's theories. How completely worth- 
less, as compared with the older literature, Lamprecht's schematic 
treatment of Pietism is (in Vol. VII of the Deutsche Geschichte) 
everyone knows who has the slightest acquaintance with the literature. 

115. Thus with the adherents of Schortinghuis's Innige Christen- 
dorn. In the history of religion it goes back to the verse about the 
servant of God in Isaiah and the 22nd Psalm. 



ii6. This appeared occasionally in Dutch Pietism and then under 
the influence of Spinoza. 

117. Labadie, Teersteegen, etc. 

118. Perhaps this appears most clearly when he (Spener !) disputes 
the authority of the Government to control the conventicles except 
in cases of disorder and abuses, because it concerns a fundamental 
right of Christians guaranteed by apostolic authority {Theologische 
Bedenken, II, pp. 81 f.). That is, in principle, exactly the Puritan stand- 
point regarding the relations of the individual to authority and the 
extent to which individual rights, which follow ex jure divino and 
are therefore inalienable, are valid. Neither this heresy, nor the one 
mentioned farther on in the text, has escaped Ritschl (Pietismus, 

II, pp. 115, 157). However unhistorical the positivistic (not to say 
philistine) criticism to which he has subjected the idea of natural 
rights to which we are nevertheless indebted for not much less than 
everything which even the most extreme reactionary prizes as his 
sphere of individual freedom, we naturally agree entirely with him 
that in both cases an organic relationship to Spener's Lutheran 
standpoint is lacking. 

The conventicles (collegia pietitatis) themselves, to which Spener's 
famous pia desideria gave the theoretical basis, and which he founded 
in practice, corresponded closely in essentials to the English pro- 
phesyings which were first practised in John of Lasco's London 
Bible Classes (1547), and after that were a regular feature of all 
forms of Puritanism which revolted against the authority ' of the 
Church. Finally, he bases his well-known repudiation of the Church 
discipline of Geneva on the fact that its natural executors, the third 
estate (status oeconomicus : the Christian laity), were not even a part 
of the organization of the Lutheran Church. On the other hand, in 
the discussion of excommunication the lay members' recognition of 
the Consistorium appointed by the prince as representatives of the 
third estate is weakly Lutheran. 

119. The name Pietism in itself, which first occurs in Lutheran 
territory, indicates that in the opinion of contemporaries it was 
characteristic of it that a methodical business was made out of pietas. 

120. It is, of course, granted that though this type of motivation 
was primarily Calvinistic it is not exclusively such. It is also found 
with special frequency in some of the oldest Lutheran Church 

121. In the sense of Heb. v. 13, 14. Compare Spener, Theologische 
Bedenken, I, p. 306. 

122. Besides Bailey and Baxter (see Consilia theologtca, III, 6, i ; 
I, 47; 3, 6), Spener was especially fond of Thomas ä Kempis, and 
even more of Tauler — whom he did not entirely understand (op. cit., 

III, 61, I, No. i). For detailed discussion of the latter, see op. cit., 
I, I, I No. 7. For him Luther is derived directly from Tauler. 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

123. See in Ritschl, op. cit., II, p. 113. He did not accept the 
repentance of the later Pietists (and of Luther) as the sole trust- 
worthy indication of true conversion (Theologische Bedenken, III, 
p. 476). On sanctification as the fruit of thankfulness in the belief of 
forgiveness, a typically Lutheran idea, see passages cited by Ritschl, 
op. cit., p. 115, note 2. On the certitudo salutis see, on the one hand, 
Theologische Bedenken, I, p. 324: "true belief is not so much felt 
emotionally as known by its fruits" (love and obedience to God); on 
the other. Theologische Bedenken, I, p. 335 f.: "As far as anxiety that 
they should be assured of salvation and grace is concerned, it is better 
to trust to our books, the Lutheran, than to the English writings." But on 
the nature of sanctification he was at one with the English view-point. 

124. Of this the religious account books which A. H. Francke 
recommended were external symptoms. The methodical practice and 
habit of virtue was supposed to cause its growth and the separation 
of good from evil. This is the principal theme of Francke 's book. 
Von des Christen Vollkommenheit. 

125. The difference between this rational Pietist belief in Pro- 
vidence and its orthodox interpretation is shown characteristically 
in the famous controversy between the Pietists of Halle and the 
orthodox Lutheran Löscher. Löscher in his Timotheus Verinus goes 
so far as to contrast everything that is attained by human action 
with the decrees of Providence. On the other hand, Francke 's con- 
sistent view was that the sudden flash of clarity over what is to happen, 
which comes as a result of quiet waiting for decision, is to be con- 
sidered as "God's hint", quite analogous to the Quaker psychology, 
and corresponding to the general ascetic idea that rational methods 
are the way to approach nearer to God. It is true that Zinzendorf, 
who in one most vital decision entrusted the fate of his community 
to lot, was far from Francke 's form of the belief in Providence. 
Spener, Theologische Bedenken, I, p. 314, referred to Tauler for a 
description of the Christian resignation in which one should bow to 
the divine will, and not cross it by hasty action on one's own respon- 
sibility, essentially the position of Francke. Its effectiveness as com- 
pared to Puritanism is essentially weakened by the tendency of 
Pietism to seek peace in this world, as can everywhere be clearly 
seen. "First righteousness, then peace", as was said in opposition to 
it in 1904 by a leading Baptist (G. White in an address to be referred 
to later) in formulating the ethical programme of his denomination 
(Baptist Handbook, 1904, p. 107). 

126. Lect. paraenet., IV, p. 271. 

127. Ritschl's criticism is directed especially against this continually 
recurrent idea. See the work of Francke containing the doctrine 
which has already been referred to. (See note 124 above.) 

128. It occurs also among English Pietists who were not adherents 
of predestination, for instance Goodwin. On him and others compare 



Heppe, Geschichte des Pietistniis in der reformierten Kirche (Leiden, 
1879), a book which even with Ritschl's standard work cannot yet 
be dispensed with for England, and here and there also for the 
Netherlands. Even in the nineteenth century in the Netherlands Köhler, 
Die Niederl. ref. Kirche, was asked about the exact time of his rebirth. 

129. They attempted thus to counteract the lax results of the 
Lutheran doctrine of the recoverability of grace (especially the very 
frequent conversion in extremis). 

130. Against the corresponding necessity of knowing the day and 
hour of conversion as an indispensable sign of its genuineness. See 
Spener, Theologische Bedenken, II, 6, i, p. 197. Repentance was as 
little known to him as Luther's terror es conscientice to Melanchthon. 

131. At the same time, of course, the anti-authoritarian interpre- 
tation of the universal priesthood, typical of all asceticism, played a 
part. Occasionally the minister was advised to delay absolution until 
proof was given of genuine repentance which, as Ritschl rightly says, 
was in principle Calvinistic. 

132. The essential points for our purposes are most easily found 
in Plitt, Zinzendorf's Theologie (3 vols., Gotha, 1869), I, pp. 325, 
345, 381, 412. 429. 433 f-, 444. 448; II, pp. 372, 381, 385, 409 f.; 
Ill, pp. 131, 167, 176. Compare also Bernh. Becker, Zinzendorf und 
sein Christentum (Leipzig, 1900), Book III, chap. iii. 

133. "In no religion do we recognize as brothers those who have 
not been washed in the blood of Christ and continue thoroughly 
changed in the sanctity of the Spirit. We recognize no ■evident 
( = visible) Church of Christ except where the Word of God is 
taught in purity and where the members live in holiness as children 
of God following its precepts." The last sentence, it is true, is taken 
from Luther's smaller catechism but, as Ritschl points out, there it 
serves to answer the question how the Name of God shall be made 
holy, while here it serves to delimit the Church of the saints. 

134. It is true that he only considered the Augsburg Confession 
f^ be a suitable document of the Lutheran Christian faith if, as he 
expressed it in his disgusting terminology, a Wundbriihe had been 
poured upon it. To read him is an act of penitence because his 
language, in its insipid melting quality, is even worse than the 
frightful Christo-turpentine of F. T. Vischer (in his polemics 
with the Munich christoterpe) . 

135. See Plitt, op. cit.,l,p. 346. Even more decisive is the answer, 
quoted in Plitt, op. cit., I, p. 381, to the question whether good works 
are necessary to salvation. "Unnecessary and harmful to the attain- 
ment of salvation, but after salvation is attained so necessary that he 
who does not perform them is not really saved." Thus here also they 
are not the cause of salvation, but the sole means of recognizing it. 

136. For instance, through those caricatures of Christian freedom 
which Ritschl, op. cit., Ill, p. 381, so severely criticizes. 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

137. Above all in the greater emphasis on the idea of retributive 
punishment in the doctrine of salvation, which, after the repudiation 
of his missionary attempts by the American sects, he made the basis 
of his method of sanctification. After that he places the retention of 
childlikeness and the virtues of humble resignation in the foreground 
as the end of Hermhut asceticism, in sharp contrast to the inclination 
of his own community to an asceticism closely analogous to the 

138. Which, however, had its limits. For this reason alone it is 
wrong to attempt to place Zinzendorf's religion 'in. a scheme of social 
psychological evolutionary stages, as Lamprecht does. Furthermore, 
however, his whole religious attitude is influenced by nothing more 
strongly than the fact that he was a Count with an outlook funda- 
mentally feudal. Further, the emotional side of it would, from the 
point of view of social psychology, fit just as well into the period of 
the sentimental decadence of chivalry as in that of sensitiveness. If 
social psychology gives any clue to its difference from West European 
rationalism, it is most likely to be found in the patriarchal tradi- 
tionalism of Eastern Germany. 

139. This is evident from Zinzendorf's controversy with Dippel 
just as, after his death, the doctrines of the Synod of 1764 bring out 
the character of the Hermhut community as an institution for salva- 
tion. See Ritschl's criticism, op. cit., Ill, p. 443 f. 

140. Compare, for instance, §§151, 153, 160. That sanctification 
may not take place in spite of true penitence and the forgiveness of 
sins is evident, especially from the remarks on p. 311, and agrees 
with the Lutheran doctrine of salvation just as it is in disagreement 
with that of Calvinism (and Methodism). 

141. Compare Zinzendorf's opinion, cited in Plitt, op. cit., II, 
p. 345. Similarly Spangenberg, Idea Fidei, p. 325. 

142. Compare, for instance, Zinzendorf's remark on Matt. xx. 28, 
cited by Plitt, op. cit., Ill, p. 131 : "When I see a man to whom God 
has given a great gift, I rejoice and gladly avail myself of the gift. 
But when I note that he is not content with his own, but wishes to 
increase it further, I consider it the beginning of that person's ruin." 
In other words, Zinzendorf denied, especially in his conversation 
with John Wesley in 1743, that there could be progress in holiness, 
because he identified it with justification and found it only in the 
emotional relationship to Christ (Plitt, I, p. 413). In place of the 
sense of being the instrument of God comes the possession of the 
divine; mysticism, not asceticism (in the sense to be discussed in 
the introduction to the following essays) (not here translated. — 
Translator's Note). As is pointed out there, a present, worldly 
state of mind is naturally what the Puritan really seeks for also. But 
for him the state which he interprets as the certitudo salutis is the 
feeling of being an active instrument, 



143. But which, precisely on account of this mystical tendency, 
did not receive a consistent ethical justification. Zinzendorf rejects 
Luther's idea of divine worship in the calling as the decisive reason 
for performing one's duty in it. It is rather a return for the "Saviour's 
loyal services" (Pütt, II, p. 411). 

144. His saying that "a reasonable man should not be without 
faith and a believer should not be unreasonable" is well known. See 
his Sokrates, d. i. Aufrichtige Anzeige verschiedener nicht sowohl 
unbekannter als vielmehr in Abfall geratener Hauptwahrheiten (i'jz'^). 
Further, his fondness for such authors as Bayle. 

145. The decided propensity of Protestant asceticism for em- 
piricism, rationalized on a mathematical basis, is well known, but 
cannot be further analysed here. On the development of the sciences 
in the direction of mathematically rationalized exact investigation, 
the philosophical motives of it and their contrast to Bacon's view- 
point, see Windelband, Geschichte der Philosophie, pp. 305-7, especially 
the remark on p. 305, which rightly denies that modern natural 
science can be understood as the product of material and technical 
interests. Highly important relationships exist, of course, but they 
are much more complex. See further Windelband, Neuere Phil., 
I, pp. 40 IT. For the attitude of Protestant asceticism the decisive 
point was, as may perhaps be most clearly seen in Spener's Theolo- 
gische Bedenken, I, p. 232; III, p. 260, that just as the Christian is 
known by the fruits of his belief, the knowledge of God and His 
designs can only be attained through a knowledge of His works. 
The favourite science of all Puritan, Baptist, or Pietist Christianity 
was thus physics, and next to it all those other natural sciences which 
used a similar method, especially mathematics. It was hoped from 
the empirical knowledge of the divine laws of nature to ascend to a 
grasp of the essence of the world, which on account of the frag- 
mentary nature of the divine revelation, a Calvinistic idea, could 
never be attained by the method of metaphysical speculation. The 
empiricism of the seventeenth century was the means for asceticism 
to seek God in nature. It seemed to lead to God, philosophical 
speculation away from Him. In particular Spener considers the 
Aristotelean philosophy to have been the most harmful element in 
Christian tradition. Every other is better, especially the Platonic: 
Cons. TheoL, III, 6, i, Dist. 2, No. 13. Compare further the following 
characteristic passage: "Unde pro Cartesio quid dicam non habeo 
[he had not read him], semper tamen optavi et opto, ut Deus viros 
excitet, qui veram philosophiam vel tandem oculis sisterent in qua 
nullius hominis attenderetur auctoritas, sed sana tantum magistri 
nescia ratio", Spener, Com. TheoL, II, 5, No. 2. The significance 
of this attitude of ascetic Protestantism for the development of 
education, especially technical education, is well known. Combined with 
the attitude to fides implicita they furnished a pedagogical programme. 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

146. "That is a type of men who seek their happiness in four main 
ways: (i) to be insignificant, despised, and abased; (2) to neglect all 
things they do not need for the service of their Lord; (3) either to 
possess nothing or to give away again what they receive ; (4) to work 
as wage labourers, not for the sake of the wage, but of the calling in 
the service of the Lord and their neighbour" {Rel. Reden, II, p. 180; 
Plitt, op. cit., I, p. 445). Not everyone can or may become a disciple, 
but only those who receive the call of the Lord. But according to 
Zinzendorf's own confession (Plitt, op. cit., 1, ■p. 449) there still remain 
difficulties, for the Sermon on the Mount applies formally to all. The 
resemblance of this free universality of love to the old Baptist ideals 
is evident. 

147. An emotional intensification of religion was by no means 
entirely unknown to Lutheranism even in its later period. Rather 
the ascetic element, the way of life which the Lutheran suspected of 
being salvation by works, was the fundamental difference in this case. 

148. A healthy fear is a better sign of grace than certainty, says 
Spener, Theologische Bedenken, I, p. 324. In the Puritan writers we, 
of course, also find emphatic warnings against false certainty; but at 
least the doctrine of predestination, so far as its influence determined 
religious practice, always worked in the opposite direction 

149. The psychological effect of the confessional was everywhere 
to relieve the individual of responsibility for his own conduct, that 
is why it was' sought, and that weakened the rigorous consistency of 
the demands of asceticism. 

150. How important at the same time, even for the form of the 
Pietist faith, was the part played by purely political factors, has been 
indicated by Ritschl in his study of Württemberg Pietism. 

151. See Zinzendorf's statement [quoted above, note 146]. 

152. Of course Calvinism, in so far as it is genuine, is also patri- 
archal. The connection, for instance, of the success of Baxter's 
activities with the domestic character of industry in Kidderminster 
is evident from his autobiography. See the passage quoted in the 
Works of the Puritan Divines, p. 38: "The town liveth upon the 
weaving of Kidderminster stuffs, and as they stand in their loom, 
they can set a book before them, or edify each other. . . ." Never- 
theless, there is a difference between patriarchalism based on Pietism 
and on the Calvinistic and especially the Baptist ethics. This problem 
can only be discussed in another connection. 

153. Lehre von der Rechtfertigung und Versöhnung, third edition, 
I, p. 598. That Frederick William I called Pietism a religion for the 
leisure class is more indicative of his owti Pietism than that of Spener 
and Francke. Even this king knew very well why he had opened his 
realm to the Pietists by his declaration of toleration. 

154. As an introduction to Methodism the excellent article Metho- 
dismus by Loofs in the Realenzyklopädie für protestantische Theo- 



logie und Kirche is particularly good. Also the works of Jacoby 
(especially the Handbuch des Methodismus), Kolde, Jüngst, and 
Southey are useful. On Wesley: Tyerman, Life and Times of John 
Wesley is popular. One of the best libraries on the history of Methodism 
is that of Northwestern University, Evanston, 111. A sort of link 
between classical Puritanism and Methodism was formed by the 
religious poet Isaac Watts, a friend of the chaplain of Oliver Cromwell 
(Howe) and then of Richard Cromwell. Whitefield is said to have 
sought his advice (cf. Skeats, op. cit., pp. 254 f.). 

155. Apart from the personal influence of the Wesleys the similarity 
is historically determined, on the one hand, by the decline of the 
dogma of predestination, on the other by the powerful revival of 
the sola fide in the founders of Methodism, especially motivated by 
its specific missionary character. This brought forth a modified 
rejuvenation of certain mediaeval methods of revival preaching and 
combined them with Pietistic forms. It certainly does not belong in 
a general line of development toward subjectivism, since in this 
respect it stood behind not only Pietism, but also the Bernardino 
religion of the Middle Ages. 

156. In this manner Wesley himself occasionally characterized 
the effect of the Methodist faith. The relationship to Zinzendorf's 
Glückseligkeit is evident. 

157. Given in Watson's Life of Wesley, p. 331 (German edition). 

158. J. Schneckenburger, Vorlesungen über die Lehrbegriffe der 
kleinen protestantischen Kirchenparteien, edited by Hundeshagen 
(Frankfurt, 1863), p. 147. 

159. Whitefield, the leader of the predestinationist group which 
after his death dissolved for lack of organization, rejected Wesley's 
doctrine of perfection in its essentials. In fact, it is only a makeshift 
for the real Calvinistic idea of proof. 

160. Schneckenburger, op. cit., p. 145. Somewhat different in Loofs, 
op. cit. Both results are typical of all similar religious phenomena. 

161. Thus in the conference of 1 770 . The first conference of 1 744 had 
already recognized that the Biblical words came "within a hair" of Cal- 
vinism on the one hand and Antinomianism on the other. But since 
they were so obscure it was not well to be separated by doctrinal differ- 
ences so long as the validity of the Bible as a practical norm was upheld. 

162. The Methodists were separated from the Herrnhuters by 
their doctrine of the possibility of sinless perfection, which Zin- 
zendorf, in particular, rejected. On the other hand, Wesley felt the 
emotional element in the Hermhut religion to be mysticism and 
branded Luther's interpretation of the law as blasphemous. This 
shows the barrier which existed between Lutheranism and every 
kind of rational religious conduct. 

163. John Wesley emphasizes the fact that everywhere, among 
Quakers, Presbyterians, and High Churchmen, one must believe in 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

dogmas, except in Methodism. With the above, compare the rather 
summary discussion in Skeats, History of the Free Churches of 
England, 1688-1851. 

164. Compare Dexter, Congregationalism, pp. 455 ff. 

165. Though naturally it might interfere with it, as is to-day the 
case among the American negroes. Furthermore, the often definitely 
pathological character of Methodist emotionalism as compared to 
the relatively mild type of Pietism may possibly, along with purely 
historical reasons and the publicity of the process, be connected 
with the greater ascetic penetration of life in the areas where Method- 
ism is widespread. Only a neurologist could decide that. 

166. Loofs, op. cit., p. 750, strongly emphasizes the fact that 
Methodism is distinguished from other ascetic movements in that it 
came after the English Enlightenment, and compares it with the 
(surely much less pronounced) German Renaissance of Pietism in 
the first third of the nineteenth century. Nevertheless, it is permissible, 
following Ritschl, Lehre von der Rechtfertigung und Versöhnung, I, 
pp. 568 f., to retain the parallel with the Zinzendorf form of Pietism, 
which, unlike that of Spener and Francke, was already itself a reaction 
against the Enlightenment. However, this reaction takes a very 
different course in Methodism from that of the Hermhuters, at 
least so far as they were influenced by Zinzendorf. 

167. But which, as is shown by the passage from John Wesley 
(below, p. 175), it developed in the same way and with the same 
effect as the other ascetic denominations. 

168. And, as we have seen, milder forms of the consistent ascetic 
ethics of Puritanism; while if, in the popular manner, one wished to 
interpret these religious conceptions as only exponents or reflections 
of capitalistic institutions, just the opposite would have to be the case. 

169. Of the Baptists only the so-called General Baptists go back 
to the older movement. The Particular Baptists were, as we have 
pointed out already, Calvinists, who in principle limited Church 
membership to the regenerate, or at least personal believers, and 
hence remained in principle voluntarists and opponents of any State 
Church. Under Cromwell, no doubt, they were not always consistent 
in practice. Neither they nor the General Baptists, however important 
they are as the bearers of the Baptist tradition, give us any occasion 
for an especial dogmatic analysis here. That the Quakers, though 
formally a new foundation of George Fox and his associates, were 
fundamentally a continuation of the Baptist tradition, is beyond 
question. The best introduction to their history, including their 
relations to Baptists and Mennonites, is Robert Barclay, The Inner 
Life of the Religious Societies of the Commonwealth, 1876. On the 
history of the Baptists, compare, among others, H. M. Dexter, The 
True Story of John Smyth, the Se-Baptist, as told by himself and his 
contemporaries, Boston, i88i (also J. C. Lang in The Baptist Quarterly 



Review, 1883, p. i); J. Murch, A History of the Presb. and Gen. 
Bapt. Church in the West of England, London, 1835; A. H. Newman, 
History of the Baptist Church in the U.S., New York, 1894 (Am. 
Church Hist. Series, vol. 2) ; Vedder, A Short History of the Baptists, 
London, 1897 ; E. B. Bax, Rise and Fall of the Anabaptists, New York, 
1902; G. Lorimer, The Baptists in History, 1902; J. A, Seiss, The 
Baptist System Examined, Lutheran Publication Society, 1902; 
furthermaterial in the Baptist Handbook, London, 1896 ff.; Baptist 
Manuals, Paris, 1891-93; The Baptist Quarterly Review; and the 
Bibliotheca Sacra, Oberlin, 1900. 

The best Baptist library seems to be that of Colgate College in 
the State of New York. For the history of the Quakers the collection 
in Devonshire House in London is considered the best (not available 
to me). The official modern organ of orthodoxy is the American 
Friend, edited by Professor Jones; the best Quaker history that of 
Rowntree. In addition: Rufus B. Jones, George Fox, an Autobiography, 
Phila., 1903; Alton C. Thomas, A History of the Society of Friends 
in America, Phila., 1895 ; Edward Grubbe, Social Aspects of the Quaker 
Faith, London, 1899. Also the copious and excellent biographical 

170. It is one of the many merits of Karl MüUer's Kirchengeschichte 
to have given the Baptist movement, great in its way, even though 
outwardly unassuming, the place it deserved in his work. It has 
suffered more than any other from the pitiless persecution of all 
the Churches, because it wished to be a sect in the specific sense of 
that word. Even after five generations it was discredited before the 
eyes of all the world by the debacle of the related eschatological 
experiment in Münster. And, continually oppressed and driven 
underground, it was long after its origin before it attained a consistent 
formulation of its religious doctrines. Thus it produced even less 
theology than would have been consistent with its principles, which 
were themselves hostile to a specializea development of its faith in 
God as a science. That was not very pleasing to the older professional 
theologians, even in its own time, and it made little impression on 
them. But many more recent ones have taken the same attitude. In 
Ritschl, Pietismus, I, pp. 22 f., the rebaptizers are not very adequately, 
in fact, rather contemptuously, treated. One is tempted to speak of 
a theological bourgeois standpoint. That, in spite of the fact that 
Cornelius's fine work {Geschichte des Münsterschen Aufruhrs) had 
been available for decades. 

Here also Ritschl everywhere sees a retrogression from his stand- 
point toward Catholicism, and suspects direct influences of the 
radical wing of the Franciscan tradition. Even if such could be 
proved in a few cases, these threads would be very thin. Above all, 
the historical fact was probably that the official Catholic Church, 
wherever the worldly asceticism of the laity went as far as the 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

formation of conventicles, regarded it with the utmost suspicion and 
attempted to encourage the formation of orders, thus outside the 
world, or to attach it as asceticism of the second grade to the existing 
orders and bring it under control. Where this did not succeed, it 
felt the danger that the practice of subjectivist ascetic morality might 
lead to the denial of authority and to heresy, just as, and with the 
same justification, the Elizabethan Church felt toward the half- 
Pietistic prophesying Bible conventicles, even when their conformism 
was undoubted; a feeling which was expressed by the Stuarts in 
their Book of Sports, of which later. The history of numerous heretical 
movements, including,, for instance, the Humiliati and the Beguins, 
as well as the fate of St. Francis, are the proofs of it. The preaching 
of the mendicant friars, especially the Franciscans, probably did 
much to prepare the way for the ascetic lay morality of Calvinist- 
Baptist Protestantism, But the numerous close relationships between 
the asceticism of Western monasticism and the ascetic conduct of 
Protestantism, the importance of which must continually be stressed 
for our particular problems, are based in the last analysis on the fact 
that important factors are necessarily common to every asceticism 
on the basis of Biblical Christianity. Furthermore, every asceticism, 
no matter what its faith, has need of certain tried methods of subduing 
the flesh. 

Of the following sketch it may further be remarked that its brevity 
is due to the fact that the Baptist ethic is of only very limited 
importance for the problem considered primarily in this study, the 
development of the religious background of the bourgeois idea of 
the calling. It contributed nothing new whatever to it. The much 
more important social aspect of the movement must for the present 
remain untouched. Of the history of the older Baptist movement, 
we can, from the view-point of our problem, present here only what 
was later important for the development of the sects in which we 
are interested: Baptists, Quakers, and, more incidentally, Mennonites. 

171. See above [note 92]. 

172. On their origin and changes, see A. Ritschl in his Gesammelte 
Aufsätze, pp. 69 f. * 

173. Naturally the Baptists have always repudiated the designation 
of a sect. They form the Church in the sense of the Epistle to the 
Ephesians v. 27. But in our terminology they form a sect not only 
because they lack all relation to the State. The relation between Church 
and State of early Christianity was even for the Quakers (Barclay) their 
ideal; for to them, as to many Pietists, only a Church under the 
Cross was beyond suspicion of its purity. But the Calvinists as well, 
faute de mieux, similarly even the Catholic Church in the same 
circumstances, were forced to favour the separation of Church and 
State under an unbelieving State or under the Cross. Neither were 
they a sect, because induction to membership in the Church took 


place de facto through a contract between the congregation and the 
candidates. For that was formally the case in the Dutch Reformed 
communities (as a result of the original political situation) in accord- 
ance with the old Church constitution (see v. Hoffmann, Kirchen- 
verfassungsrecht der nieder!. Reformierten, Leipzig, 1902). 

On the contrary, it was because such a religious community could 
only be voluntarily organized as a sect, not compulsorily as a Church, 
if it did not wish to include the unregenerate and thus depart from 
the Early Christian ideal. For the Baptist communities it was an 
essential of the very idea of their Church, while for the Calvinists 
it was an historical accident. To be sure, that the latter were also 
urged by very definite religious motives in the direction of the 
believers' Church has already been indicated. On the distinction 
between Church and sect, see the following essay. The concept of 
sect which I have adopted here has been used at about the same 
time and, I assume, independently from me, by Kattenbusch in the 
Realenzyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche (Article 
Sekte). Troeltsch in his Die Soziallehren der christlichen Kirchen und 
Gruppen accepts it and discusses it more in detail. See also below, 
the introduction to the essays on the Wirtschaftsethik der Weltreligionen. 

174. How important this symbol was, historically, for the conser- 
vation of the Church commünty, since it was an unambiguous and 
unmistakable sign, has been very clearly shown by Cornelius, op. cit. 

175. Certain approaches to it in the Mennonites' doctrine of justi- 
fication need not concern us here. 

176. This idea is perhaps the basis of the religious interest in the 
discussion of questions like the incarnation of Christ and his relation- 
ship to the Virgin Mary, which, often as the sole purely dogmatic 
part, stands out so strangely in the oldest documents of Baptism (for 
instance the confessions printed in Cornelius, op. cit., Appendix to 
Vol, n. On this question, see K. Müller, Kirchengeschichte, II, i, 
p. 330). The difference between the christology of the Reformed 
Church and the Lutheran (in the doctrine of the so-called communicatio 
idiomatum) seems to have been based on similar religious interests. 

177. It was expressed especially in the original strict avoidance 
even of everyday intercourse with the excommunicated, a point at 
which even the Calvinists, who in principle held the opinion that 
worldly affairs were not affected by spiritual censure, made large 
concessions. See the following essay. 

178. How this principle was applied by the Quakers to seemingly 
trivial externals (refusal to remove the hat, to kneel, bow, or use 
formal address) is well known. The basic idea is to a certain extent 
characteristic of all asceticism. Hence the fact that true asceticism is 
always hostile to authority." In Calvinism it appeared in the principle 
that only Christ should rule, in the Church. In the case of Pietism' 
one may think of Spener's attempts to find a Biblical justification of 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

titles. Catholic asceticism, so far as ecclesiastical authority was con- 
cerned, broke through this tendency in its oath of obedience, by 
interpreting obedience itself in ascetic terms. The overturning of 
this principle in Protestant asceticism is the historical basis of the 
peculiarities of even the contemporary democracy of the peoples 
influenced by Puritanism as distinct from that of the Latin spirit. 
It is also part of the historical background of that lack of respect of 
the American which is, as the case may be, so irritating or so 

179. No doubt this was true from the beginning for the Baptists 
essentially only of the New Testament, not to the same extent of 
the Old. Especially the Sermon on the Mount enjoyed a peculiar 
prestige as a programme of social ethic in all denominations. 

180. Even Schwenkfeld had considered the outward performance 
of the sacraments an adiaphoron, while the General Baptists and the 
Mennonites held strictly to Baptism and the Communion, the Men- 
nonites to the washing of feet in addition. On the other hand, for 
the predestinationists the depreciation, in fact for all except the com- 
munion — one may even say the suspicion — in which the sacraments 
were held, went very far. See the following essay. 

181. On this point the Baptist denominations, ' especially the 
Quakers (Barclay, Apology for the True Christian Divinity, fourth 
edition, London, 1701, kindly placed at my disposal by Eduard 
Bernstein), referred to Calvin's statements in the Instit. Christ, III, 
p. 2, where in fact quite unmistakable suggestions of Baptist doctrine 
are to be found. Also the older distinction between the Word of God 
as that which God had revealed to the patriarchs, the prophets, and 
the apostles, and the Holy Scriptures as that part of it which they 
had written down, was, even though there was no historical con- 
nection, intimately related to the Baptist conception of revelation. 
The mechanical idea of inspiration, and with it the strict bibliocracy 
of the Calvinists, was just as much the product of their development 
in one direction in the course of the sixteenth century as the doctrine 
of the inner light of the Quakers, derived from Baptist sources, was 
the result of a directly opposite development. The sharp differen- 
tiation was also in this case partly a result of continual disputes. 

182. That was emphasized strongly against certain tendencies of 
the Socinians. The natural .reason knows nothing whatever of God 
(Barclay, op. cit., p. 102). That meant that the part played by the 
lex natures elsewhere in Protestantism was altered. In principle 
there could be no general rules, no moral code, for the calling which 
everyone had, and which is different for every individual, is revealed 
to him by God through his conscience. We should do, not the good 
in the general sense of natural reason, but God's will as it is written 
in our hearts and known through the conscience (Barclay, pp. 73, 
76). This irrationality of morality, derived from the exaggerated 



contrast between the divine and the flesh, is expressed in these 
fundamental tenets of Quaker ethics: "What a man does contrary to 
his faith, though his faith may be wrong, is in no way acceptable 
to God — though the thing might have been lawful to another" 
(Barclay, p. 487). Of course that could not be upheld in practice. 
The "moral and perpetual statutes acknowledged by all Christians" 
are, for instance, for Barclay the limit of toleration. In practice the 
contemporaries felt their ethic, with certain peculiarities of its own, 
to be similar to that of the Reformed Pietists. "Everything good in 
the Church is suspected of being Quakerism", as Spener repeatedly 
points out. It thus seems that Spener envied the Quakers this reputa- 
tion. Cons. Theol., Ill, 6, i, Dist. 2, No. 64. The repudiation of oaths 
on the basis of a passage in the Bible shows that the real emancipation 
from the Scriptures had not gone far. The significance for social 
ethics of the principle, "Do unto others as you would that they 
should do unto you", which many Quakers regarded as the essence 
of the whole Christian ethics, need not concern us here. 

183. The necessity of assuming this possibility Barclay justifies 
because without it "there should never be a place known by the 
Saints wherein they might be free of doubting and despair, which — 
is most absurd". It is evident that the certitudo salutis depends upon 
it. Thus Barclay, op. cit., p. 20. 

184. There thus remains a difference in type between the Cal- 
vinistic and the Quaker rationalization of life. But when Baxter 
formulates it by saying that the spirit is supposed by the Quakers 
to act upon the soul as on a corpse, while the characteristically 
formulated Calvinistic principle is "reason and spirit are conjunct 
principles" {Christian Directory, II, p. 76), the distinction was no 
longer valid for his time in this form. 

185. Thus in the very careful articles "Menno" and "Men- 
noniten" by Cramer in the Realenzyklopädie für protestantische 
Theologie und Kirche, especially p. 604. However excellent these 
articles are, the article "Baptisten" in the same encyclopedia is not 
very penetrating and in part simply incorrect. Its author does not 
know, for instance, the Publications of the Hanserd Knolly's Society, 
which are indispensable for the history of Baptism. 

186. Thus Barclay, op. cit., p. 404, explains that eatmg, drinking, 
and acquisition are natural, not spiritual acts, which may be per- 
formed without the special sanction of God. The explanation is in 
reply to the characteristic objection that if, as the Quakers teach, 
one cannot pray without a special motion of the Spirit, the same 
should apply to ploughing. It is, of course, significant that even in the 
modem resolutions of Quaker Synods the advice is sometimes given 
to retire from business after acquiring a sufficient fortune, in order, 
withdrawn from the bustle of the world, to be able to live in devotion 
to the Kingdom of God alone. But the same idea certainly occurs 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

occasionally in other denominations, including Calvinism. That 
betrays the fact that the acceptance of the bourgeois practical ethics 
by these movements w^as the worldly application of an asceticism 
which had originally fled from the world. 

187. Veblen in his suggestive book The Theory of Business 
Enterprise is of the opinion that this motto belongs only to early 
capitalism. But economic supermen, who, like the present captains 
of industry, have stood beyond good and evil, have always existed, 
and the statement is still true of the broad underlying strata of 
business men. 

188. We may here again expressly call attention to the excellent 
remarks of Eduard Bernstein, op. cit. To Kautsky's highly schematic 
treatment of the Baptist movement and his theory of heretical com- 
munism in general (in the first volume of the same work) we shall 
return on another occasion. 

189. "In civil actions it is good to be as the many, in religious 
to be as the best", says, for example, Thomas Adams {Works of the 
Puritan Divines, p. 138).. That sounds somewhat more drastic than 
it is meant to be. It means that the Puritan honesty is formalistic 
legality, just as the uprightness which the sometime Puritan people 
like to claim as a national virtue is something specifically different 
from the German Ehrlichkeit. Some good remarks on the subject 
from the educational standpoint may be found in the Preuss. Jahrb., 
CXI I (1903), p. 226. The formalism of the Puritan ethic is in turn 
the natural consequence of its relation to the law. 

190. Something is said on this in the following essay. 

191. This is the reason for the economic importance of the ascetic 
Protestant, but not Catholic, minorities. 

192. That the difference of dogmatic basis was not inconsistent 
with the adoption of the most important interest in proof is to be 
explained in the last analysis by the historical peculiarities of Christi- 
anity in general which cannot be discussed here. 

193. "Since God hath gathered us to be a people", says Barclay, op. 
cit., p. 357. 1 myself heard a Quaker sermon at Haverford College which 
laid great emphasis on the interpretation of saints as meaning separate. 


I. See the excellent sketch of his character in Dowden, op. cit. 
A passable introduction to Baxter's theology, after he had abandoned 
a strict belief in the double decree, is given in the introduction to 
the various extracts from his works printed in the Works of the 
Puritan Divines (by Jenkyn). His attempt to combine universal 
redemption and personal election satisfied no one. For us it is 
important only that he even then held to personal election, i.e. to 



the most important point for ethics in the doctrine of predestination. 
On the other hand, his weakening of the forensic view of redemption 
is important as being suggestive of baptism. 

2. Tracts and sermons by Thomas Adams, John Howe, Matthew 
Henry, J. Janeway, Stuart Charnock, Baxter, Bunyan, have been 
collected in the ten volumes of the Works of the Puritan Divines 
(London, 1845-8), though the choice is often somewhat arbitrary. 
Editions of the works of Bailey, Sedgwick, and Hoombeek have 
already been referred to. 

3. We could just as well have included Voet and other continental 
representatives of worldly asceticism. Brentano's view that the whole 
development was purely Anglo-Saxon is quite wrong. My choice is 
motivated mainly (though not exclusively) by the wish to present 
the ascetic naovement as much as possible in the second half of the 
seventeenth century, immediately before the change to utilitarianism. 
It has unfortunately been impossible, within the limits of this sketch, 
to enter upon the fascinating task of presenting the characteristics 
of ascetic Protestantism through the medium of the biographical 
literature ; the Quakers would in this connection be particularly 
important, since they are relatively little known in Germany. 

4. For one might just as well take the writings of Gisbert Voet, 
the proceedings of the Huguenot Synods, or the Dutch Baptist 
literature. Sombart and Brentano have unfortunately taken just the 
ebionitic parts of Baxter, which I myself have strongly emphasized, 
to confront me with the undoubted capitalistic backwardness of his 
doctrines. But (i) one must know this whole literature thoroughly 
in order to use it correctly, and (2) not overlook the fact that I have 
attempted to show how, in spite of its anti-mammonistic doctrines, 
the spirit of this ascetic religion nevertheless, just as in the monastic 
communities, gave birth to economic rationalism because it placed 
a premium on what was most important for it: the fundamentally 
ascetic rational motives. That fact alone is under discussion and is 
the point of this whole essay. 

5. Similarly in Calvin, -who was certainly no champion of bour- 
geois wealth (see the sharp attacks on Venice and Antwerp in Jes. 
Opp., ni, 140a, 308a). 

6. Saints' Everlasting Rest, chaps, x, xii. Compare Bailey {Prax- 
is Pietatis, p. 182) or Matthew Henry {The Worth of the Soul, Works 
of the Puritan Divines, p. 319). "Those that are eager in pursuit of 
worldly wealth despise their Soul, not only because the Soul is 
neglected and the body preferred before it, but because it is employed 
in these pursuits" (Psa. cxxvii. 2). On the same page, however, is 
the remark to be cited below about the sinfulness of all waste of 
time, especially in recreations. Similarly in almost the whole religious 
literature of English-Dutch Puritanism. See, for instance, Hoombeek's 
(op. cit., L, X,ch, 18, i8) Phillipics against avaritia. This writer is also 

The Protestant Ethic ayid the Spirit of Capitalism 

affected by sentimental pietistic influences. See the praise of tran- 
quillitas animi which is much more pleasing to God than the sollicitudo 
of this world. Also Bailey, referring to the well-known passage in 
Scripture, is of the opinion that "A rich man is not easily saved" 
{op. cit., p. 182). The Methodist catechisms also warn against 
"gathering treasure on this earth". For Pietism this is quite obvious, 
as also for the Quakers. Compare Barclay {op. cit., p. 517), "... and 
therefore beware of such temptations as to use their callings as an 
engine to be richer". 

7. For not wealth alone, but also the impulsive pursuit of it (or 
what passed as such) was condemned with similar severity. In the 
Netherlands the South Holland Synod of 1574 declared, in reply to 
a question, that nioney-lenders should not be admitted to communion 
even though the business was permitted by law; and the Deventer 
Provincial Synod of 1598 (Art. 24) extended this to the employees 
of nioney-lenders. The Synod of Gorichem in 1606 prescribed severe 
and humiliating conditions under which the wives of usurers might 
be admitted, and the question was discussed as late as 1644 and 1657 
whether Lombards should be admitted to communion (this against 
Brentano, who cites his own Catholic ancestors, although foreign 
traders and bankers have existed in the whole European and Asiatic 
world for thousands of years). Gisbert Voet (Disp. Theol., IV, 
1667, cie usiiris, p. 665) still wanted to exclude the Trapezites 
(Lombards, Piedmontese). The same was true of the Huguenot 
Synods. This type of capitalistic classes were not the typical 
representatives of the philosophy or the type of conduct with which 
we are concerned. They were also not new as compared with 
antiquity or the Middle Ages. 

8. Developed in detail in the tenth chapter of the Saints' Ever- 
lasting Rest. He who should seek to rest in the shelter of possessions 
which God gives, God strikes even in this life. A self-satisfied enjoy- 
ment of wealth already gained is almost always a symptom of moral 
degradation. If we had everything which we could have in this world, 
would that be all we hoped for? Complete satisfaction of desires is 
not attainable on earth because God's will has decreed it should 
not be so. 

9. Christian Directory, I, pp. 375-6. "It is for action that God 
maintaineth us and our activities; work is the moral as well as the 
natural end of power. ... It is action that God is most served and 
honoured by. . . . The public welfare or the good of the many is 
to be valued above our own." Here is the connecting-point for the 
transition from the will of God to the purely utilitarian view-point of 
the later liberal theory. On the religious sources of Utilitarianism, 
see below in the text and above, chap, iv, note 145. 

10. The commandment of silence has been, starting from the 
Biblical threat of punishment for every useless word, especially since 



the Cluny monks, a favourite ascetic means of education in self- 
control, Baxter also speaks in detail of the sinfulness of unnecessary 
words. Its place in his character has been pointed out by Sanford, 
op. cit., pp. 90 ff. 

What contemporaries felt as the deep melancholy and moroseness 
of the Puritans was the result of breaking down the spontaneity of 
the status naturalis, and the condemnation of thoughtless speech was 
in the service of this end. When Washington Irving {Bracebridge 
Hall, chap, xxx) seeks the reason for it partly in the calculating 
spirit of capitalism and partly in the effect of political freedom, 
which promotes a sense of responsibility, it may be remarked that 
it does not apply to the Latin peoples. For England the situation 
was probably that: (i) Puritanism enabled its adherents to create 
free institutions and still become a world power ; and (2) it trans- 
formed that calculating spirit (what Sombart calls Rechenhaftigkeit), 
which is in truth essential to capitalism, from a mere means to 
economy into a principle of general conduct. 

11. Op. cit., I, p. III. 

12. Op. cit., I, p. 383 f. 

13. Similarly on the preciousness of time, see Barclay, op. cit., p. 14. 

14. Baxter, op. cit., I, p. 79. "Keep up a high esteem of time and 
be every day more careful that you lose none of your time, than 
you are that you lose none of your gold and silver. And if vain 
recreation, dressings, feastings, idle talk, unprofitable company, or 
sleep be any of them temptations to rob you of any of your time, 
accordingly heighten your watchfulness." "Those that are prodigal 
of their time despise their own souls", says Matthew Henry {Worth 
of the Soul, Works of the Puritan Divines, p. 315). Here also Protestant 
asceticism follows a well-beaten track. We are accustomed to think it 
characteristic of the modern man that he has no time, and for instance, 
like Goethe in the Wanderjahren, to measure the degree of capitalistic 
development by the fact that the clocks strike every quarter-hour. 
So also Sombart in his Kapitalismus. We ought not, however, to 
forget that the first people to live (in the Middle Ages) with careful 
measurement of time were the monks, and that the church bells 
were meant above all to meet their needs. 

15. Compare Baxter's discussion of the calling, op. cit., I, pp. 108 ti. 
Especially the following passage: "Question: But may I not cast off 
the world that I may only think of my salvation ? Answer : You may 
cast off all such excess of worldly cares or business as unnecessarily 
hinder you in spiritual things. But you may not cast off all bodily 
employment and mental labour in which you may serve the common 
good. Everyone as a member of Church or Commonwealth must 
employ their parts to the utmost for the good of the Church and the 
Commonwealth. To neglect this and say: I will pray and meditate, 
is as if your servant should refuse his greatest work and tie himself 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

to some lesser, easier part. And God hath commanded you some 
way or other to labour for your daily bread and not to live as drones 
of the sweat of others only." God's commandment to Adam, "In 
the sweat of thy brow", and Paul's declaration, "He who will not 
work shall not eat", are also quoted. It has always been known of 
the Quakers that even the most well-to-do of them have had their 
sons learn a calling, for ethical and not, as Alberti recommends, for 
utilitarian reasons. 

i6. Here are points where Pietism, on account of its emotional 
character, takes a different view. Spener, although he emphasizes in 
characteristic Lutheran fashion that labour in a calling is worship 
of God {Theologische Bedenken, III, p. 445), nevertheless holds that 
the restlessness of business affairs distracts one from God, a most 
characteristic difference from Puritanism. 

17. I, op. cit., p. 242 ."It's they that are lazy in their callings that 
can find no time for holy duties." Hence the idea that the cities, the 
seat of the middle class with its rational business activities, are the 
seats of ascetic virtue. Thus Baxter says of his hand-loom weavers 
in Kidderminster: "And their constant converse and traffic with 
London doth much to promote civility and piety among trades- 
men . . ." in his autobiography {Works of the Puritan Divines, 
p. 38). That the proximity of the capital should promote virtue 
would astonish modem clergymen, at least in Germany. But Pietism 
also inclined to similar views. Thus Spener, speaking of a young 
colleague, writes : "At least it appears that among the great multitudes 
in the cities, though the majority is quite depraved, there are never- 
theless a number of good people who can accomplish much, while 
in villages often hardly anything good can be found in a whole 
community" {Theologische Bedenken, I, 66, p. 303). In other words, 
the peasant is little suited to rational ascetic conduct. Its ethical 
glorification is very modem. We cannot here enter into the significance 
of this and similar statements for the question of the relation of 
asceticism to social classes. 

18. Take, for instance, the following passages {op. cit., p. 336 f.): 
"Be wholly taken up in diligent business of your lawful callings 
when you are not exercised in the more immediate service of God." 
"Labour hard in your callings." "See that you have a calling which 
will find, you employment for all the time which God's immediate 
service spareth." 

19. That the peculiar ethical valuation of labour and its dignity 
was not originally a Christian idea nor even peculiar to Christianity 
has recently again been strongly emphasized by Harnack {Mitt, des 
Ev.-Soz. Kongr., 14. Folge, 1905, Nos. 3,4, p. 48). 

20. Similarly in Pietism (Spener, op. cit.. Ill, pp. 429-30). The 
characteristic Pietist version is that loyalty to a calling which is 
imposed upon us by the fall serves to annihilate one's own selfish 



will. Labour in the calling is, as a service of love to one's neighbour, 
a duty of gratitude for God's grace (a Lutheran idea), and hence it 
is not pleasing to God that it should be performed reluctantly 
{pp. cit.,\\\, p. 272). The Christian should thus "prove himself as 
industrious in his labour as a worldly man" (III, p. 278). That is 
obviously less drastic than the Puritan version . 

21. The significance of this important difference, which has been 
evident ever since the Benedictine rules, can only be shown by a 
much wider investigation. 

22. "A sober procreation of children" is its purpose according 
to Baxter. Similarly Spener, at the same time with concessions to 
the coarse Lutheran attitude, which makes the avoidance of im- 
morality, which is otherwise unavoidable, an accessory aim. Con- 
cupiscence as an accompaniment of sexual intercourse is sinful even 
in marriage. For instance, in Spener 's view it is a result of the fall 
which transformed such a natural, divinely ordained process into 
something inevitably accompanied by sinful sensations, which is 
hence shameful. Also in the opinion of various Pietistic groups the 
highest form of Christian marriage is that with the preservation of 
virginity, the next highest that in which sexual intercourse is only 
indulged in for the procreation of children, and so on down to those 
which are contracted for purely erotic or external reasons and which 
are, from an ethical standpoint, concubinage. On these lower levels 
a marriage entered into for purely economic reasons is preferred 
(because after all it is inspired by rational motives) to one with erotic 
foundations. We may here neglect the Herrnhut theory and practice 
of marriage. Rationalistic philosophy (Christian Wolff) adopted the 
ascetic theory in the form that what was designed as a means to an 
end, concupiscence and its satisfaction, should not be made an end 
in itself. 

The transition to a pure, hygienically oriented utilitarianism had 
already taken place in Franklin, who took approximately the ethical 
standpoint of modern physicians, who understand by chastity the 
restriction of sexual intercourse to the amount desirable for health, 
and who have, as is well known, even given theoretical advice as to 
how that should be accomplished. As soon as these matters have 
become the object of purely rational consideration the same develop- 
ment has everywhere taken place. The Puritan and the hygienic 
sex-rationalist generally tread very different paths, but here they 
understand each other perfectly. In a lecture, a zealous adherent of 
hygienic prostitution — it was a question of the regulation of brothels 
and prostitutes — defended the moral legitimacy of extra-marital 
intercourse (which was looked upon as hygienically useful) by referring 
to its poetic justification in the case of Faust and Margaret. To treat 
Margaret as a prostitute and to fail to distinguish the powerful sway 
of human passions from sexual intercourse for hygienic reasons, 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

both are thoroughly congenial to the Puritan standpoint. Similar, 
for instance, is the typical specialist's view, occasionally put forward 
by very distinguished physicians, that a question which extends so 
far into the subtlest problems of personality and of culture as that 
of sexual abstinence should be dealt with exclusively in the forum 
of the physician (as an expert). For the Puritan the expert was the 
moral theorist, now he is the medical man ; but the claim of com- 
petence to dispose of the questions which seem to us somewhat 
narrow-minded is, with opposite signs of course, the same in both 

But with all its prudery, the powerful idealism of the Puritan 
attitude can show positive accomplishments, even from the point of 
view of race conservation in a purely hygienic sense, while modern 
sex hygiene, on account of the appeal to unprejudicedness which it 
is forced to make, is in danger of destroying the basis of all its success. 
How, with the rationalistic interpretation of sexual relations among 
peoples influenced by Puritanism, a certain refinement and spiritual 
and ethical penetration of marital relationships, with a blossoming 
of matrimonial chivalry, has grown up, in contrast to the patriarchal 
sentimentality (Brodeni), which is typical of Germany even in the 
circles of the intellectual aristocracy, must necessarily remain outside 
this discussion. Baptist influences have played a part in the emancipa- 
tion of woman ; the protection of her freedom of conscience, and 
the extension of the idea of the universal priesthood to her were 
here also the first breaches in patriarchal ideas. 

23. This recurs again and again in Baxter. The Biblical basis is 
regularly either the passages in Proverbs, which we already know 
from Franklin (xxii. 29), or those in praise of labour (xxxi. 16). Cf. 
op. cit., I, pp. 377, 382, etc. 

24. Even Zinzendorf says at one point: "One does not only work 
in order to live, but one lives for the sake of one's work, and if 
there is no more work to do one suffers or goes to sleep" (Plitt, 
op. cit., I, p. 428). 

25. Also a symbol of the Mormons closes (after quotations) with 
the words: "But a lazy or indolent man cannot be a Christian and 
be saved. He is destined to be struck down and cast from the hive." 
But in this case it was primarily the grandiose discipline, half-way 
between monastery and factory, which placed the individual before 
the dilemma of labour or annihilation and, of course in connection 
with religious enthusiasm and only possible through it, brought 
forth the astonishing economic achievements of this sect. 

26. Hence (op. cit., I, p. 380) its symptoms are carefully analysed. 
Sloth and idleness are such deadly sins because they have a cumu- 
lative character. They are even regarded by Baxter as "destroyers of 
grace" (op. cit., I, pp. 279-80), That is, they are the antitheses of the 
methodical life. 



27. See above, chap, iii, note 5. 

28. Baxter, op. cit., I, pp. 108 ff. Especially striking are the follow- 
ing passages: "Question: But will not wealth excuse us? Answer: 
It may excuse you from some sordid sort of work by making you 
more serviceable to another, but you are no more excused from 
service of work . . . than the poorest man." Also, p. 376: ''Though 
they [the rich] have no outward want to urge them, they have as 

' great a necessity to obey God , . . God hath strictly commanded 
it [labour] to all." Chap, iv, note 47. 

29. Similarly Spener (op. cit., Ill, pp. 338, 425), who for this 
reason opposes the tendency to early retirement as morally objec- 
tionable, and, in refuting an objection to the taking of interest, that 
the enjoyment of interest leads to laziness, emphasizes that anyone 
who was in a position to live upon interest would still be obligated 
to work by God's commandment. 

30. Including Pietism. Whenever a question of change of calling 
arises, Spener takes the attitude that after a certain calling has once 
been entered upon, it is a duty of obedience to Providence to remain 
and acquiesce in it. 

31. The tremendous force, dominating the whole of conduct, 
with which the Indian religious teaching sanctions economic tradi- 
tionalism in terms of chances of favourable rebirth, I have shown in 
the essays on the Wirtschaftsethik der Weltreligionen. It is an excellent 
example by which to show the difference between mere ethical 
theories and the creation of psychological sanctions with a religious 
background for certain types of conduct. The pious Hindu could 
advance in the scale of transmigration only by the strictly traditional 
fulfilment of the duties of the caste of his birth. It was the strongest 
conceivable religious basis for traditionalism. In fact, the Indian 
ethic is in this respect the most completely consistent antithesis of 
the Puritan, as in another respect (traditionalism of the caste structure) 
it is opposed to the Hebrew, 

32. Baxter, op. cit., I, p. 377. 

33. But this does not mean that the Puritan view-point was his- 
torically derived from the latter. On the contrary, it is an expression 
of the genuinely Calvinistic idea that the cosmos of the world serves 
the glory of God. The utilitarian turn, that the economic cosmos 
should serve the good of the many, the common good, etc., was a 
consequence of the idea that any other interpretation of it would 
lead to aristocratic idolatry of the flesh, or at least did not serve the 
glory of God, but only fleshly cultural ends. But God's will, as it is 
expressed (chap iv, note 34) in the purposeful arrangements of the 
economic cosmos, can, so far as secular ends are in question at all, 
only be embodied in the good of the community, in imF>ersonal 
usefulness. Utilitarianism is thus, as has already been pointed out, 
the result of the impersonal character of brotherly love and the 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

repudiation of all glorification of this world by the exclusiveness of 
the Puritan in majorem Dei gloriam. 

How completely this idea, that all idolatry of the flesh is incon- 
sistent with the glory of God and hence unconditionally bad, 
dominated ascetic Protestantism is clearly shown by the doubts and 
hesitation which it cost even Spener, who certainly was not infected 
with democracy, to maintain the use of titles as äöidi])opov against 
numerous objections. He finally comforted himself with the reflection 
that even in the Bible the Praetor Festus was given the title of 
KpdriajoQ by the Apostles. The political side of the question does 
not arise in this connection. 

34. "The inconstant man is a stranger in his own house", says 
Thomas Adams {Works of the Puritan Divines, p. 77). 

35. On this, see especially George Fox's remarks in the Friends' 
Library (ed. W. & T. Evans, Philadelphia, 1837), I, p. 130. 

36. Above all, this sort .of religious ethic cannot be regarded as a 
reflex of economic conditions. The specialization of occupations had, 
if anything, gone further. in mediaeval Italy than in the England of 
that period. 

37. For, as is often pointed out in the Puritan literature, God 
never commanded "love thy neighbour more than thyself", but only 
as thyself. Hence self-regard is also a duty. For instance, a man who 
can make better use of his possessions, to the greater glory of God, 
than his neighbour, is not obliged by the duty of brotherly love to 
part with them. 

38. Spener is also close to this view-point. But even in the case 
of transfer from commercial occupations (regarded as especially 
dangerous to virtue) to theology, he remains hesitaiit and on the 
wholeopposed to it (o/). a7., HI, pp. 435, 443; I, p. 524). The frequent 
occurrence of the reply to just this question (of the permissibility of 
changing a calling) in Spener's naturally biassed opinion shows, 
incidentally, how eminently practical the different ways of inter- 
preting I Corinthians vii were. 

39. Such ideas are not to be found, at least in the writings, of the 
leading Continental Pietists. Spener's attitude vacillates between the 
Lutheran (that of satisfaction of needs) and Mercantilist arguments 
for the usefulness of the prosperity of commerce, etc. {op. cit., HI, 
PP- 330i'332; I, p. 418: "the cultivation of tobacco brings money 
into the country and is thus useful, hence not sinful". Compare 
also HI, pp. 426-7, 429, 434). But he does not neglect to point out 
that, as the example of the Quakers and the Mennonites shows, 
one can make profit and yet remain pious ; in fact, that even especially 
high profits, as we shall point out later, may be the direct result of 
pious uprightness {op. cit., p. 435). 

. 40. These views of Baxter are not a reflection of the economic 
environment in which he lived. On the contrary, his autobiography 



shows that the success of his home missionary work was partly due 
to the fact that the Kidderminster tradesmen were not rich, but 
only earned food and raiment, and that the master craftsmen had 
to live from hand to mouth just as their employees did. "It is the 
poor who receive the glad tidings of the Gospel." Thomas Adams 
remarks on the pursuit of gain: "He [the knowing man] knows . . . 
that money may make a man richer, not better, and thereupon 
chooseth rather to sleep with a good conscience than a full purse . . . 
therefore desires no more wealth than an honest man may bear 
away" {Works of the Puritan Divines, LI). But he does want that 
much, and that means that every formally honest gain is legitimate. 

41. Thus Baxter, op. cit., I, chap, x, i, 9 (par. 24) ; I, p. 378, 2. 
In Prov. xxiii. 4: "Weary thyself not to be rich" nKeans only "riches 
for our fleshly ends must not ultimately be intended". Possession in 
the feudal-seigneurial form of its use is what is odious (cf . the remark, 
op. cit., I, p. 380, on the "debauched part of the gentry"), not posses- 
sion in itself. Milton, in the first Defensio pro populo Anglicano, held 
the well-known theory that only the middle class can maintain 
virtue. That middle class here means bourgeoisie as against the 
aristocracy is shown by the statement that both luxury and necessity 
are unfavourable to virtue. 

42. This is most important. We may again add the general remark: 
we are here naturally not so much concerned with what concepts 
the theological moralists developed in their ethical theories, but, 
rather, what was the effective morality in the life of believers — that 
is, how the religious background of economic ethics affected practice. 
In the casuistic literature of Catholicism, especially the Jesuit, one 
can occasionally read discussions which — for instance on the question 
of the justification of interest, into which we do not enter here — sound 
like those of many Protestant casuists, or even seem to go farther in 
permitting or tolerating things. The Puritans have since often 
enough been reproached that their ethic is at bottom the same as 
that of the Jesuits. Just as the Calvinists often cite Catholic moralists, 
not only Thomas Aquinas, Bernhard of Clairvaux, Bonaventura, 
etc., but also contemporaries, the Catholic casuists also took notice 
of heretical ethics. We cannot discuss all that here. 

But quite apart from the decisive fact of the religious sanction of 
the ascetic life for the layman, there is the fundamental difference, 
even in theory, that these latitudinarian ideas within Catholicism 
were the products of peculiarly lax ethical theories, not sanctioned 
by the authority of the Church, but opposed by the most serious 
and strictest disciples of it. On the other hand, the Protestant idea 
of the calling in effect placed the most serious enthusiasts for 
asceticism in the service of capitalistic acquisition. What in the one 
case might under certain conditions be allowed, appeared in the 
other as a positive moral good. The fundamental differences of the 


f — The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

two ethics, very important in practice, have been finally crystallized, 
even for modern times, by the Jansenist controversy and the Bull 

43. "You may labour in that manner as tendeth most to your 
success and lawful gain. You are bound to improve all your talents." 
There follows the passage cited above in the text. A direct parallel 
between the pursuit of wealth in the Kingdom of Heaven and the 
pursuit of success in an earthly calling is found in Janeway, Heaven 
upon Earth {Works of the Puritan Divines, p, 275). 

44. Even in the Lutheran Confession of Duke Christopher of 
/ Württemberg, which was submitted to the Council of Trent, objection 
J is made to the oath of poverty. He who is poor in his station should 

bear it, but if he swore to remain so it would be the same as if he 
swore to remain sick or to maintain a bad reputation. 

45. Thus in Baxter and also in Duke Christopher's confession. 
Compare further pasages like: "... the vagrant rogues whose lives 
are nothing but an exorbitant course; the main begging", etc. 
(Thomas Adams, Works of the Puritan Divines; p. 259). Even Calvin 
had strictly forbidden begging, and the Dutch Synods campaigned 
against licences to beg. During the epoch of the Stuarts, especially 
Laud's regime under Charles I, which had systematically developed 
the principle of public poor relief and provision of work for the un- 
employed, the Puritan battle-cry was: "Giving alms is no charity" 
(title of Defoe's later well-known work). Towards the end of the 
seventeenth century they began the deterrent system of workhouses 
for the unemployed (compare Leonard, Early History of English Poor 
Relief, Cambridge, 1900, and H. Levy, Die Grundlagen des ökono- 
mischen Liberalismus in der Geschichte der englischen Volkswirtschaft, 
Jena, 1912, pp. 69 ff.). 

46. The President of the Baptist Union of Great Britain and 
Ireland, G. White, said emphatically in his inaugural address before 
the assembly in London in 1903 (Baptist Handbook, 1904, p. 104): 
"The best men on the roll of our Puritan Churches were men of 

y_affairs, who believed that religion should permeate the whole of life.* 

47. Here also lies the characteristic difference from all feudal 
view -points. For the latter only the descendants of the parvenu 
(political or social) can reap the benefit of his success in a recognized 
station (characteristically expressed in the Spanish Hidalgo = hijo 
d'algo =filius de aliquo where the aliquid means an inherited properly) 
However rapidly these differences are to-day fading out in the rapid 
change and Europeanization of the American national character, 
nevertheless the precisely opposite bourgeois attitude which glorifies 
business success and earnings as a symptom of mental achievement, 
but has no respect for mere inherited wealth, is still sometimes 
represented there. On the other hand, in Europe (as James Bryce 
once remarked) in effect almost every social honour is now purchasable 



for money, so long as the buyer has not himself stood behind the 
counter, and carries out the necessary metamorphosis of his property 
(formation of trusts, etc.). Against the aristocracy of blood, see for 
instance Thomas Adams, Works of the Puritan Divines, p. 216. 

48. That was, for instance, already true of the founder of the 
Familist sect, Hendrik Nicklaes, who was a merchant (Barclay, 

^Jnner Life of the Religious Societies of the Commonwealth, p. 34). 

49. This is, for instance, definitely true for Hoornbeek, since 
Matt. V. 5 and i Tim. iv. 8 also made purely worldly promises to 
the saints {op. cit., I, p. 193). Everything is the work of God's Pro- 
vidence, but in particular He takes care of His own. Op. cit., p. 192: 
"Super alios autem summa cura et modis singularissimis versatur 
Dei Providentia circa fideles." There follows a discussion of how 
one can know that a stroke of luck comes not from the communis 
Providentia, but from that special care. Bailey also {op. cit., p. igi) 
explains success in worldly labours by reference to Providence. That 
prosperity is often the reward of a godly life is a common expression 
in Quaker writings (for example see such an expression as late as 
1848 in Selection from the Christian Advices, issued by the General 
Meeting of the Society of Friends, London, sixth edition, 1851, 
p. 209). We shall return to the connection with the Quaker ethics. 

50. Thomas Adams's analysis of the quarrel of Jacob and Esau 
may serve as an example of this attention to the patriarchs, which is 
equally characteristic of the Puritan view of life {Works of the Puritan 
Divines, p. 235): "His [Esau's] folly may be argued from the base 
estimation of the birthright" [the passage is also important for the 
development of the idea of the birthright, of which more later] "that 
he would so lightly pass from it and on so easy condition as a pottage." 
But then it was perfidious that he would not recognize the sale, 
charging he had been cheated. He is, in other words, "a cunning 
hunter, a man of the fields"; a man of irrational, barbarous life; 
while Jacob, "a plain man, dwelling in tents", represents the "man 
of grace". 

The sense of an inner relationship to Judaism, which is expressed 
even in the well-known work of Roosevelt, Köhler {op. cit.) found 
widespread among the peasants in Holland. But, on the other hand, 
Puritanism was fully conscious of its differences from Hebrew ethics 
in practical affairs, as Prynne's attack on the Jews (apropos of Cromwell's 
proposals for toleration) plainly shows. See below, note 58. 

5 1 . Zur bäuerlichen Glaubens- und Sittenlehre. Von einem thüring- 
ischen Landpfarrer, second edition, Gotha, 1890, p. 16. The peasants 
who are here described are characteristic products of the Lutheran 
Church. Again and again I wrote Lutheran in the margin when the 
excellent author spoke of peasant religion in general. 

52. Compare for instance the passage cited in Ritschl, Pietismus 
n, p. 158. Spener also bases his objections to change of calling and 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

pursuit of gain partly on passages in Jesus Sirach. Theologische 
Bedenken, III, p. 426. 

53. It is true that Bailey, nevertheless, recommends reading them, 
and references to the Apocrypha occur now and then, though naturally 
not often. I can remember none to Jesus Sirach just now (though 
perhaps by chance). 

54. Where outward success comes to persons evidently damned, 
the Calvinist (as for instance Hoombeek) comforts himself with the 
reflection, following the theory of stubbornness, that God allows it 
to them in order to harden them and make their doom the more 

55. We cannot go farther into this point in this connection. We 
are here interested only in the formalistic character of Puritan 
righteousness. On the significance of Old Testament ethics for the 
lex natures there is much in Troeltsch's Soziallehren. 

56. The binding character of the ethical norms of the Scriptures 
goes for Baxter (Christian Directory, III, p. 173 f.) so far that they 
are (i) only a transcript of the law of nature, or (2) bear the "express 
character of universality and perpetuity". 

57. For instance Dowden (with reference to Bunyan), op. cit., 

P- 39- 

58. More on this point in the essays on the Wirtschaftsethik der 
Weltreligionen. The enormous influence which, for instance, the 
second commandment ("thou shalt not make unto thee a graven 
image") has had on the development of the Jewish character, its 
rationality and abhorrence of sensuous culture, cannot be analysed 
here. However, it may perhaps be noted as characteristic that one 
of the leaders of the Educational Alliance in the United States, an 
organization which carries on the Americanization of Jewish immi- 
grants on a grand scale and with astonishing success, told me that 
one of the first purposes aimed at in all forms of artistic and social 
educational work was emancipation from the second commandment. 
To the Israelite's prohibition of any anthropomorphic representation 
of God corresponds in Puritanism the somewhat different but in 
effect similar prohibition of idolatry of the flesh. 

As far as Talmudic Judaism is concerned, some fundamental 
traits of Puritan morality are certainly related to it. For instance, it 
is stated in the Talmud (in Wünsche, Bdbyl. Talmud, II, p. 34) 
that it is better and will be more richly rewarded by God if one 
does a good deed for duty's sake than one which is not commanded 
by the law. In other words, loveless fulfillment of duty stands higher 
ethically than sentimental philanthropy. The Puritan ethics would 
accept that in essentials. Kant in effect also comes close to it, being 
partly of Scotch ancestry and strongly influenced by Pietism in his 
bringing up. Though we cannot discuss the subject here, many of 
his formulations are closely related to ideas of ascetic Protestantism. 



But nevertheless the Talmudic ethic is deeply saturated with Oriental 
traditionalism. "R. Tanchum said to Ben Chanilai, 'Never alter a 
custom'" (Gemara to Mischna. VII, i, 86b, No. 93, in Wünsche. It 
is a question of the standard of living of day labourers). The only 
exception to this conformity is relation to strangers. 

Moreover, the Puritan conception of lawfulness as proof evidently 
provided a much stronger motive to positive action than the Jewish 
unquestioned fulfillment of all commandments. The idea that success 
reveals the blessing of God is of course not unknown to Judaism. 
But the fundamental difference in religious and ethical significance 
which it took on for Judaism on account of the double ethic pre- 
vented the appearance of similar results at just the most important 
point. Acts toward a stranger were allowed which were forbidden 
toward a brother. For that reason alone it was impossible for success 
in this field of what was not commanded but only allowed to be a 
sign of religious worth and a motive to methodical conduct in the 
way in which it was for the Puritan. On this whole problem, which 
Sombart, in his book Die Juden und das Wirtschaftsleben, has often 
dealt with incorrectly, see the essays referred to above. The details 
have no place here. 

The Jewish ethics, however strange that may at first sound, 
remained very strongly traditionalistic. We can likewise not enter 
into the tremendous change which the inner attitude toward the 
world underwent with the Christian form of the ideas of grace and 
salvation which contained in a peculiar way the seeds of new possi- 
bilities of development. On Old Testament lawfulness compare 
for example Ritschl, Die christliche Lehre von der Rechtfertigung und 
Versöhnung, II, p. 265. 

To the English Puritans, the Jews of their time were representatives 
of that type of capitalism which was involved in war, Government 
contracts. State monopolies, speculative promotions, and the con- 
struction and financial projects of princes, which they themselves 
condemned. In fact the difference may, in general, with the necessary 
qualifications, be formulated: that Jewish capitalism was speculative 
pariah-capitalism, while the Puritan was bourgeois organization of 

59. The truth of the Holy Scriptures follows for JBaxter in the 
last analysis from the "wonderful difference of the godly and ungodly", 
the absolute diflFerence of the renewed man from others, and God's 
evident quite special care for His chosen people (which may of 
course be expressed in temptations). Christian Directory, I, p. 165. 

60. As a characterization of this, it is only necessary to read 
how tortuously even Bunyan, who still occasionally approaches the 
atmosphere of Luther's Freiheit eines Christenmenschen (for example 
in Of the Law and a Christian, Works of the Puritan Divines, p. 254), 
reconciles himself with the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

(see the sermon The Pharisee and the Publican, op. cit., p. loo). 
Why is the Pharisee condemned? He does not truly keep God's 
commandments, for he is evidently a sectarian who is only concerned 
with external details and ceremonies (p. 107), but above all because 
he ascribes merit to himself , and at the same time, like the Quakers, 
thanks God for virtue by misuse of His name. In a sinful manner 
he exalts this virtue (p. 126), and thus implicitly contests God's 
predestination (p. 139). His prayer is thus idolatry of the flesh, and 
that is the reason it is sinful. On the other hand, the publican is, as 
the honesty of his confession shows, spiritually reborn, for, as it is 
put with a characteristic Puritan mitigation of the Lutheran sense oi 
sin, "to a right and sincere conviction of sin there must be a con- 
viction of the probability of mercy" (p. 209). 

'61. Printed in Gardiner's Constitutional Documents. One may 
compare this struggle against anti-authoritarian asceticism with 
Louis XIV's persecution of Port Royal and the Jansenists. 

62. Calvin's own standpoint was in this respect distinctly less 
drastic, at least in so far as the finer aristocratic forms of the enjoy- 
ment of life were concerned. The only limitation is the Bible. Whoever 
adheres to it and has a good conscience, need not observe his every 
impulse to enjoy life with anxiety. The discussion in Chapter X of 
the Instit. Christ (for instance, "nee fugere ea quoque possumus 
quae videntur oblectatione magis quam necessitate inservire") might 
in itself have opened the way to a very lax practice. Along with 
increasing anxiety over the certitudo salutis the most important 
circumstance for the later disciples was, however, as we shall point 
out in another place, that in the era of the ecclesia militans it was 
the small bourgeoisie who were the principal representatives of 
Calvinistic ethics. 

63. Thomas Adams {Works of the Puritan Divines, p. 3) begins a 
sermon on the "three divine sisters" ("but love is the greatest of 
these") with the remark that even Paris gave the golden apple to 
Aphrodite ! 

64. Novels and the like should not be read; they are "wastetimes" 
(Baxter, Christian Directory, I, p. 51). The decline of lyric poetry 
and folk-music, as well as the drama, after the Elizabethan age in 
England is well known. In the pictorial arts Puritanism perhaps did 
not find very much to suppress. But very striking is the decline 
from what seemed to be a promising musical beginning (England's 
part in the history of music was by no means unimportant) to that 
absolute musical vacuum which we find typical of the Anglo-Saxon 
peoples later, and even to-day. Except for the negro churches, and 
the professional singers whom the Churches now engage as attractions 
(Trinity Church in Boston in 1904 for $8,000 annually), in America 
one also hears as community singing in general only a noise which 
is intolerable to German ears (partly analogous things in Holland also). 



65. Just the same in Holland, as the reports of the Synods show. 
(See the resolutions on the Maypole in the Reitmaas Collection, 
VI, 78, 139.) 

66. That the "Renaissance of the Old Testament" and the Pietistic 
orientation to certain Christian attitudes hostile to beauty in art, 
which in the last analysis go back to Isaiah and the 22nd Psalm, 
must have contributed to making ugliness more of a possible object 
for art, and that the Puritan repudiation of idolatry of the flesh 
played a part, seems likely. But in detail everything seems uncertain. 
In the Roman Church quite different demagogic motives led to 
outwardly similar effects, but, however, with quite different artistic 
results. Standing before Rembrandt's Saul and David (in the 
Mauritshuis), one seems directly to feel the powerful influence of 
Puritan emotions. The excellent analysis of Dutch cultural influences 
in Carl Neumann's Rembra7tdt probably gives everything that for 
the time being we can know about how far ascetic Protestantism may 
be credited with a positive fructifying influence on art. 

67. The most complex causes, into which we cannot go here, wei:e 
responsible for the relatively smaller extent to which the Calvinistic 
ethic penetrated practical life there. The ascetic spirit began to 
wealcen in Holland as early as the beginning of the seventeenth 
century (the English Congregationalists who fled to Holland in 1608 
were disturbed by the lack of respect for the Sabbath there), but 
especially under the Stadtholder Frederick Henry. Moreover, Dutch 
Puritanism had in general much less expansive power than English. 
The reasons for it lay in part in the political constitution (par- 
ticularistic confederation of towns and provinces) and in the far 
smaller degree of military force (the War of Independence was soon 
fought principally with the money of Amsterdam and mercenary 
armies. English preachers illustrated the Babylonian confusion of 
tongues by reference to the Dutch Arrny). Thus the burden of the 
war of religion was to a large extent passed on to others, but at the 
same time a part of their political power was lost. On the other hand, 
Cromwell's army, even though it was partly conscripted, felt that it 
was an army of citizens. It was, to be sure, all the more characteristic 
that just this army adopted the abolition of conscription in its pro- 
gramme, because one could fight justly only for the glory of God 
in a cause hallowed by conscience, but not at the whim of a sovereign. 
The constitution of the British Army, so immoral to traditional 
German ideas, had its historical origin in very moral motives, and 
was an attainment of soldiers who had never been beaten. Only after 
the Restoration was it placed in the service of the interests of the 
Crown . 

The Dutch schutterijen, the champions of Calvinism in the period 
of the Great War, only half a generation after the Synod of Dordrecht, 
do not look in the least ascetic in the pictures of Hals. Protests of 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

the Synods against their conduct occur frequently. The Dutch 
concept of Deftigkeit is a mixture of bourgeois-rational honesty and 
patrician consciousness of status. The division of church pews 
according to classes in the Dutch churches shows the aristocratic 
character of this religion even to-day. The continuance of the town 
economy hampered industry. It prospered almost alone through 
refugees, and hence only sporadically. Nevertheless, the worldly 
asceticism of Calvinism and Pietism was an important influence in 
Holland in the same direction as elsewhere. Also in the sense to be 
referred to presently of ascetic compulsion to save, as Groen van 
Prinsterer shows in the passage cited below, note 87. 

Moreover, the almost complete lack of belles lettres in Calvinistic 
Holland is of course no accident (see for instance Busken-Huet, 
Het Land van Rembrandt). The significance of Dutch religion as 
ascetic compulsion to save appears clearly even in the eighteenth 
century in the writings of Albertus Haller. For the characteristic 
peculiarities of the Dutch attitude toward art and its motives, compare 
for example the autobiographical remarks of Constantine Huyghens 
(written in 1629-31) in Oud Holland, 1891. The work of Groen van 
Prinsterer, La Hollande et Vinfluence de Calvin, 1864, already referred 
to, offers nothing important for our problems. The Ntew Netherlands 
colony in America was socially a half-feudal settlement of patroons, 
merchants who advanced capital, and, unlike New England, it was 
difficult to persuade small people to settle there. 

68. We may recall that the Puritan town government closed the 
theatre at Stratford-on-Avon while Shakespeare was still alive and 
residing there in his last years, Shakespeare's hatred and contempt 
of the Puritans appear on every occasion. As late as 1777 the City 
of Birmingham refused to license a theatre because it was conducive 
to slothfulness, and hence unfavourable to trade (Ashley, Birmingham 
Trade and Commerce, 191 3). 

69. Here also it was of decisive importance that for the Puritan 
there was only the alternative of divine will or earthly vanity. Hence 
for him there could be no adiaphora. As we have already pointed 
out, Calvin's own view was different in this respect. What one eats, 
wears, etc., as long as there is no enslavement of the soul to earthly 
desire as a result, is indifferent. Freedom from the world should be 
expressed, as for the Jesuits, in indifference, which for Calvin meant 
an indifferent, un covetous use of whatever goods the earth offered 
(pp. 409 ff. of the original edition of the Jnstit. Christ). 

70. The Quaker attitude in this respect is well known. But as 
early as the beginning of the seventeenth century the heaviest storms 
shook the pious congregation of exiles in Amsterdam for a decade 
over the fashionable hats and dresses of a preacher's wife (charmingly 
described in Dexter's Congregationalism of the Last Three Hundred 
Years). Sanford (op. cit.) has pointed out that the present-day male 



hair-cut is that of the ridiculous Roundheads, and the equally ridiculous 
(for the time) male clothing of the Puritans is at least in principle 
fundamentally the same as that of to-day. 

71. On this point again see Veblen's Theory of Business Enterprise. 

yz. Again and again we come back to this attitude. It explains 
statements like the following: "Every penny which is paid upon 
yourselves and children and friends must be done as by God's own 
appointment and to serve and please Him. Watch narrowly, or else 
that thievish, carnal self will leave God nothing" (Baxter, op. cit., I, 
p. 108). This is decisive; what is expended for personal ends is 
withdrawn from' the service of God's glory. 

73. Quite rightly it is customary to recall (Dowden, op. cit.) that 
Cromwell saved Raphael's drawings and Mantegna's Triumph of 
Ctssar from destruction, while Charles II tried to sell them. More- 
over, the society of the Restoration was distinctly cool or even hostile 
to English national literature. In fact the influence of Versailles was 
all-powerful at courts everywhere. A detailed analysis of the influence 
of the unfavourable atmosphere for the spontaneous enjoyment of 
everyday life on the spirit of the higher types of Puritan, and the 
men who went through the schooling of Puritanism, is a task which 
cannot be undertaken within the limits of this sketch. Washington 
Irving {Bracebridge Hall) forniulates it in the usual English terms 
thus: "It [he says political freedom, we should say Puritanism] 
evinces less play of the fancy, but more power of the imagination." 
It is only necessary to think of the place of the Scotch in science, 
literature, and technical invention, as well as in the business life of 
Great Britain, to be convinced that this remark approaches the truth, 
even though put somewhat too narrowly. We cannot speak here of 
its significance for the development of technique and the empirical 
sciences. The relation itself is always appearing in everyday life. For 
the Quakers, for instance, the recreatjons which are permissible 
(according to Barclay) are: visiting of friends, reading of historical 
works, mathematical and physical experiments, gardening, discussion 
of business and other occurrences in the world, etc. The reason is 
that pointed out above. 

74. Already very finely analysed in Carl Neumann's Rembrandt, 
which should be compared with the above remarks in general. 

75. Thus Baxter in the passage cited above, I, p. 108, and 

76. Compare the well-known description of Colonel Hutchinson 
(often quoted, for instance, in Sanford, op. cit., p. 57) in the biography 
written by his widow. After describing all his chivalrous virtues and 
his cheerful, joyous nature, it goes on: "He was wonderfully neat, 
cleanly, and genteel in his habit, and had a very good fancy in it ; 
but he left off very early the wearing of anything that was costly." 
Quite similar is the ideal of the educated and highly civilized Puritan 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

woman who, however, is penurious of two things: (i) time, and 
(2) expenditure for pomp and pleasure, as drawn in Baxter's funeral 
oration for Mary Hammer {Works of the Puritan Divines, p. 533). 

77. I think, among many other examples, especially of a manu- 
facturer unusually successful in his business ventures, and in his 
later years very wealthy, who, when for the treatment of a trouble- 
some digestive disorder the doctor prescribed a few oysters a day, 
could only be brought to comply with difficulty. Very considerable 
gifts for philanthropic purposes which he made during his lifetime 
and a certain openhandedness showed, on the other hand, that it 
was simply a survival of that ascetic feeling which looks upon enjoy- 
ment of wealth for oneself as morally reprehensible, but has nothing 
whatever to do with avarice. 

78. The separation of workshop, office, of business in general and 
the private dwelling, of firm and name, of business capital and private 
wealth, the tendency to make of the business a corpus mysticum (at 
least in the case of corporate property) all lay in this direction. On 
this, see my Handelsgesellschaften im Mittelalter {Gesammelte Aufsätze 
zur Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte, pp. 312 ff.). 

79. Sombart in his Kapitalismus (first edition) has already well 
pointed out this characteristic phenomenon. It must, however, be noted 
that the accumulation of wealth springs from two quite distinct psycho- 
logical sources. One reaches into the dimmest antiquity and is expressed 
in foundations, family fortunes, and trusts, as well as much more purely 
and clearly in the desire to die weighted down with a great burden 
of material goods ; above all to insure the continuation of a business 
even at the cost of the personal interests of the majority of one's 
children. In such cases it is, besides the desire to give one's own 
creation an ideal life beyond one's death, and thus to maintain the 
splendor familiee and extend the personality of the founder, a question 
of, so to speak, fundamentally egocentric motives. That is not the 
case with that bourgeois motive with which we are here dealing. 
There the motto of asceticism is "Entsagen sollst du, sollst entsagen" 
in the positive capitalistic sense of "Erwerben sollst du, sollst 
erwerben". In its pure and simple non -rationality it is a sort of 
categorical imperative. Only the glory of God and one's own duty, 
not human vanity, is the motive for the Puritans; and to-day only 
the duty to one's calling. pleases anyone to illustrate an idea by 
its extreme consequences, we may recall the theory of certain American 
millionaires, that their millions should not be left to their children, 
so that they will not be deprived of the good moral effects of the 
necessity of working and earning for themselves. To-day that idea is 
certainly no more than a theoretical soap-bubble. 

80. This is, as must continually be emphasized, the final decisive 
religious motive (along with the purely ascetic desire to mortify the 
flesh). It is especially clear in the Quakers. 



8i. Baxter {Saints' Everlasting Rest, p. 12) repudiates this with 
precisely the same reasoning as the Jesuits: the body must have 
what it needs, otherwise one becomes a slave to it. 

82. This ideal is clearly present, especially for Quakerism, in the 
first period of its development, as has already been shown in im- 
portant points by Weingarten in his Englische Revolutionskirchen. 
Also Barclay's thorough discussion {op. cit., pp. 519 ff., 533) shows 
it very clearly. To be avoided are: (i) Worldly vanity ; thus all osten- 
tation, frivolity, and use of things having no practical purpose, or 
which are valuable only for their scarcity (i.e. for vanity's sake). 
(2) Any unconscientious use of wealth, such as excessive expenditure 
for not very urgent needs above necessary provision for the real needs 
of life and for the future. The Quaker was, so to speak, a living law 
of marginal utility. "Moderate use of the creature" is definitely per- 
missible, but in particular one might pay attention to the quality 
and durability of materials so long as it did not lead to vanity. On 
all this compare Morgenblatt für gebildete Leser, 1846, pp. 216 ff. 
Especially on comfort and solidity among the Quakers, compare 
Schneckenburger, Vorlesungen, pp. 96 f. 

83. Adapted by Weber from Faust, Act I. Goethe there depicts 
Mephistopheles as "Die Kraft, die stets das Böse will, und stets das 
Gute schafft". — Translator's Note. 

84. It has already been remarked that we cannot here enter into 
the question of the class relations of these religious movements (see 
the essays on the Wirtschaftsethik der Weltreligionen). In order to 
see, however, that for example Baxter, of whom we make so much 
use in this study, did not see things solely as a bourgeois of his time, 
it will suflSce to recall that even for him in the order of the religious 
value of callings, after the learned professions comes the husband- 
man, and only then mariners, clothiers, booksellers, tailors, etc. 
Also, under mariners (characteristically, enough) he probably thinks 
at least as often of fishermen as of shipowners. In this regard several 
things in the Talmud are in a different class. Compare, for instance, 
in Wünsche, Babyl. Talmud, II, pp. 20, 21, the sayings of Rabbi 
Eleasar, which though not unchallenged, all contend in effect that 
business is better than agriculture. In between see II, 2, p. 68, on 
the wise investment of capital: one-third in land, one-third in 
merchandise, and one-third in cash. 

For those to whom no causal explanation is adequate without an 
economic (or materialistic as it is unfortunately still called) inter- 
pretation, it may be remarked that I consider the influence of 
economic development on the fate of religious ideas to be very 
important and shall later attempt to show how in our case the process 
of mutual adaptation of the "two took place. On the other haiid, those 
religious ideas themselves simply cannot be deduced from economic 
circumstances. They are in themselves, that is beyond doubt, the 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

most powerful plastic elements of national character, and contain a 
law of development and a compelling force entirely their own. 
Moreover, the most important differences, so far as non-religious 
factors play a part, are, as with Lutheranism and Calvinism, the 
result of political circumstances, not economic. 

85. That is what Eduard Bernstein means to express when he 
says, in the essay referred to above (pp. 625, 681), "Asceticism is a 
bourgeois virtue." His discussion is the first which has suggested 
these important relationships. But the connection is a much wider 
one than he suspected. For not only the accumulation of capital, but 
the ascetic rationalization of the whole of economic life was involved. 

For the American Colonies, the difference between the Puritan 
North, where, on account of the ascetic compulsion to save, capital 
in search of investment was always available, from the conditions 
in the South has already been clearly brought out by Doyle. 

86. Doyle, The English in America, II, chap. i. The existence 
of iron -works (1643), weaving for the market (1659), and also the 
high development of the handicrafts in New England in the first 
generation after the foundation of the colonies are, from a purely 
economic view-point, astounding. They are in striking contrast to 
the conditions in the South, as well as the non-Cälvinistic Rhode 
Island with its complete freedom of conscience. There, in spite of 
the excellent harbour, the report of the Governor and Council of 
1686 said: "The great obstruction concerning trade is the want 
of merchants and men of considerable estates amongst us" (Arnold, 
History of the State of Rhode Island, p. 490). It can in fact hardly be 
doubted that the compulsion continually to reinvest savings, which 
the Puritan curtailment of consumption exercised, played a part. In 
addition there was the part of Church discipline which cannot be 
discussed here. 

87. That, however, these circles rapidly diminished in the Nether- 
lands is shown by Busken-Huet's discussion {op. cit., II, chaps, iii 
and iv). Nevertheless, Groen van Prinsterer says {Handb. der Gesch. 
van het Vaderland, third edition, par. 303, note, p. 254), "De Neder- 
landers verkoopen vtel en verbruiken wenig", even of the time after 
the Peace of Westphalia. 

88. For England, for instance, a petition of an aristocratic Royalist 
(quoted in Ranke, Engl. Geschichte, IV, p. 197) presented after the 
entry of Charles II into London, advocated a legal prohibition of 
the acquisition of landed estates by bourgeois capital, which should 
thereby be forced to find employment in trade. The class of Dutch 
regents was distinguished as an estate from the bourgeois patricians 
of the cities by the purchase of landed estates. See the complaints, 
cited by Fruin, Tien jaren uit den tachtigjarigen oorlog, of the year 
1652, that the regents have become landlords and are no longer 
merchants. To be sure these circles had never been at bottom strictly 



Calvinistic. And the notorious scramble for membership in the 
nobility and titles in large parts of the Dutch middle class in the 
second half of the seventeenth century in itself shows that at least 
for this period the contrast between English and Dutch conditions 
must be accepted with caution. In this case the power of hereditary 
moneyed property broke through the ascetic spirit. 

89. Upon the strong movement for bourgeois capital to buy 
English landed estates followed the great period of prosperity of 
English agriculture. 

90. Even down into this century Anglican landlords have often 
refused to accept Nonconformists as tenants. At the present time 
the two parties of the Church are of approximately equal numbers, 
while in earlier times the Nonconformists were always in the 

91. H. Levy (article in Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozial- 
politik, XLVI, p. 605) rightly notes that according to the native 
character of the English people, as seen from numerous of its traits, 
they were, if anything, less disposed to welcome an ascetic ethic 
and the middle-class virtues than other peoples. A hearty and un- 
restrained enjoyment of life was, and is, one of their fundamental 
traits. The power of Puritan asceticism at the time of its predominance 
is shown most strikingly in the astonishing degree to which this trait 
of character was brought under discipline among its adherents. 

92. This contrast recurs continually in Doyle's presentation. In 
the attitude of the Puritan to everything the religious motive always 
played an important part (not always, of course, the sole important 
one). The colony (under Winthrop's leadership) was inclined to 
permit the settlement of gentlemen in Massachusetts, even an upper 
house with a hereditary nobility, if only the gentlemen would adhere 
to the Church. The colony remained closed for the sake of Church 
discipline. The colonization of New Hampshire and Maine was 
carried out by large Anglican merchants, who laid out large stock- 
raising plantations. Between them and the Puritans there was very 
little social connection. There were complaints over the strong greed 
for profits of the New Englanders as early as 1632 (see Weeden's 
Economic and Social History of New England, I, p. 125). 

93. This is noted by Petty {Pol. Arith.), and all the contemporary 
sources without exception speak in particular of the Puritan sectarians, 
Baptists, Quakers, Mennonites, etc., as belonging partly to a property- 
less class, partly to one of small capitalists, and contrast them both 
with the great merchant aristocracy and the financial adventurers. 
But it was from just this small capitalist class, and not from the 
great financial magnates, monopolists, Government contractors, 
lenders to the King, colonial entrepreneurs, promoters, etc., that 
there originated what was characteristic of Occidental capitalism : the 
middle-class organization of industrial labour on the basis of private 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

property (see Unwin, Industrial Organization in the Sixteenth and 
Seventeenth Centuries, London, 1914, pp. 196 ff.)» To see that this 
difference was fully known even to contemporaries, compare Parker's 
Discourse Concerning Puritans of 164 1, where the contrast to promoters 
and courtiers is also emphasized. 

94. On the way in which this was expressed in the politics of 
Pennsylvania in the eighteenth century, especially during the War 
of Independence, see Sharpless, A Quaker Experiment in Government, 
Philadelphia, 1902. 

95. Quoted in Southey, Life of Wesley, chap, xxix (second American 
edition, II, p. 308). For the reference, which I did not know, I am 
indebted to a letter from Professor Ashley (191 3). Ernst Troeltsch, to 
whom I communicated it for the purpose, has already made use of it. 

96. The reading of this passage may be recommended to all those 
who consider themselves to-day better informed on these matters 
than the leaders and contemporaries of the movements themselves. 
As we see, they knew very well what they were doing and what 
dangers they faced. It is really inexcusable to contest so lightly, as 
some of my critics have done, facts which are quite beyond dispute, 
and have hitherto never been disputed by anyone. All I have done 
is to investigate their underlying motives somewhat 'more carefully. 
No one in the seventeenth century doubted the existence of these 
relationships (compare Manley, Usury of 6 per Cent. Examined, 1669, 
p. 137). Besides the modern writers already noted, poets like Heine 
and Keats, as well as historians like Macaulay, Cunningham, Rogers, 
or an essayist such as Matthew Arnold, have assumed them as 
obvious. From the most recent literature see Ashley, Birmingham 
Industry and Commerce (191 3). He has also expressed his complete 
agreement with me in correspondence. On the whole problem now 
compare the study by H. Levy referred to above, note 91. 

97. Weber's italics. 

98. That exactly the same things were obvious to the Puritans of 
the classical era cannot perhaps be more clearly shown than by the 
fact that in Bunyan Mr. Money-Love argues that one may become 
religious in order to' get rich, for instance to attract customers. For 
why one has become religious makes no difference (see p. 114, 
Tauchnitz edition). 

99. Defoe was a zealous Nonconformist. 

100. Spener also {Theologische Bedenken, pp. 426, 429, 432 ff.), 
although he holds that the merchant's calling is full of temptations 
and pitfalls, nevertheless declares in answer to a question: "I am 
glad to see, so far as trade is concerned, that my dear friend knows 
no scruples, but takes it as an art of life, which it is, in which much 
good may be done for the human race, and God's will may be carried 
out through love." This is more fully justified in other passages by 
mercantilist arguments. Spener, at times in a purely Lutheran strain, 



designates the desire to become rich as the main pitfall, following 
I Tim. vi, viii, and ix, and referring to Jesus Sirach (see above), 
and hence rigidly to be condemned. But, on the other hand, he 
takes some of it back by referring to the prosperous sectarians who 
yet live righteously (see above, note 39). As the result of industrious 
work wealth is not objectionable to him either. But on account of 
the Lutheran influence his standpoint is less consistent than that of 

loi. Baxter, op. cit., II, p. 16, warns against the employment of 
"heavy, flegmatic, sluggish, fleshly, slothful persons" as servants, 
and recommends preference for godly servants, not only because 
ungodly servants would be mere eye-servants, but above all because 
"a truly godly servant will do all your service in obedience to God, 
as if God Himself had bid him do it". Others, on the other hand, 
are inclined "to make no great matter of conscience of it". However, 
the criterion of saintliness of the workman is not for him the external 
confession of faith, but the "conscience to do their duty". It appears 
here that the interests of God and of the employers are curiously 
harmonious. Spener also (Theologische Bedenken, III, p. 272), who 
otherwise strongly urges taking time to think of God, assumes it to 
be obvious that workers must be satisfied with the extreme minimum 
of leisure time (even on Sundays). English writers have rightly 
called the Protestant immigrants the pioneers of skilled labour. See 
also proofs in H. Levy, Die Grundlagen des ökonomischen Liberalismus 
in der Geschichte der englischen Volkswirtschaft, p. 53. 

102. The analogy between the unjust (according to human 
standards) predestination of only a few and the equally unjust, but 
equally divinely ordained, distribution of wealth, was too obvious to 
be escaped. See for example Hoornbeek, op. cit., I, p. 153. Further- 
more, as for Baxter, op. cit., I, p. 380, poverty is very often a symptom 
of sinful slothfulness. 

103. Thomas Adams {Works of the Puritan Divines, p. 158) thinks 
that God probably allows so many people to remain poor because 
He knows that they would not be able to withstand the temptations 
that go with w^ealth. For wealth all too often draws men away from 

104. See above, note 45, and the study of H. Levy referred to there. 
The same is noted in all the discussions (thus by Manley for the 

105. Charisma is a sociological term coined by Weber himself. It 
refers to the quality of leadership which appeals to non-rational 
motives. See Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, pp. 140 ff. — Translator's 

106. Similar things were not lacking in England. There was, for 
example, that Pietism which, starting from Law's Serious Call (172S), 
preached poverty, chastity, and, originally, isolation from the world. 

u 281 

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

107. Baxter's activity in Kidderminster, a community absolutely 
debauched when he arrived, which was almost unique in the history 
of the ministry for its success, is at the same time a typical example 
of how asceticism educated the masses to labour, or, in Marxian 
terms, to the production of surplus value, and thereby for the first 
time made their employment in the capitalistic labour relation 
(putting-out industry, weaving, etc.) possible at all. That is very 
generally the causal relationship. From Baxter's own view-point he 
accepted the employment of his charges in capitalistic production 
for the sake of his religious and ethical interests. From the standpoint 
of the development of capitalism these latter were brought into the 
service of the development of the spirit of capitalism. 

108. Furthermore, one may well doubt to what extent the joy of 
the mediaeval craftsman in his creation, which is so commonly 
appealed to, was effective as a psychological motive force. Never- 
theless, there is undoubtedly something in that thesis. But in any case 
asceticism certainly deprived all labour of this worldly attractiveness, 
to-day for ever destroyed by capitalism, and oriented it to the 
beyond. Labour in a calling as such is willed by God. The im- 
personality of present-day labour, what, from the standpoint of the 
individual, is its joyless lack of meaning, still has a religious justifi- 
cation here. Capitalism at the time of its development needed 
labourers who were available for economic exploitation for conscience' 
sake. To-day it is in the saddle, and hence able to force people to 
labour without transcendental sanctions. 

109. Petty, Political Arithmetick, Works, edited by Hull, I, p. 262. 
no. On these conflicts and developments see H. Levy in the book 

cited above. The very powerful hostility of public opinion to 
monopolies, which is characteristic of England, originated historically 
in a combination of the political struggle for power against the 
Crown — the Long Parliament excluded monopolists from its member- 
ship — with the ethical motives of Puritanism; and the economic 
interests of the small bourgeois and moderate -scale capitalists against 
the financial magnates in the seventeenth century. The Declaration 
of the Army of August 2, 1652, as well as the Petition of the Levellers 
of January 28, 1653, demand, besides the abolition of excises, tariffs, 
and indirect taxes, and the introduction of a single tax on estates, 
above all free trade, i.e. the abolition of the monopolistic barriers to 
trade at home and abroad, as a violation of the natural rights of man. 

111. Compare H. Levy, Die Grundlagen des ökonomischen Liberal- 
ismus in der Geschichte der englischen Volkswirtschaft, pp. 5 1 f . 

112. That those other elements, which have here not yet been 
traced to their religious roots, especially the idea that honesty is the 
best policy (Franklin's discussion of credit), are also of Puritan 
origin, must be proved in a somewhat different connection (see the 
following essay [not translated here]). Here I shall limit myself to 



repeating the following remark of J. A. Rowntree {Quakerism, Past 
and Present, pp. 95-6), to which E. Bernstein has called my atten- 
tion: "Is it merely a coincidence, or is it a conseqtience, that the 
lofty profession of spirituality made by the Friends has gone hand 
in hand with shrewdness and tact in the transaction of mundane 
affairs? Real piety favours the success of a trader by insuring his 
integrity and fostering habits of prudence and forethought, im- 
portant items in obtaining that standing and credit in the commercial 
world, which are requisites for the steady accumulation of wealth" 
(see the following essay). "Honest as a Huguenot" was as proverbial 
in the seventeenth century as the respect for law of the Dutch which 
Sir W. Temple admired, and, a century later, that of the English as 
compared with those Continental peoples that had not been through 
this ethical schooling. 

113. Well analysed in Bielschowsky's Goethe, \l, chap, xviii. For 
the development of the scientific cosmos Windelband, at the end of 
his Blütezeit der deutschen Philosophie (Vol. H of the Gesch. d. Neueren 
Philosophie), has expressed a similar idea. 

114. Saints' Everlasting Rest, chap. xii. 

115. "Couldn't the old man be satisfied with his $75,000 a year 
and rest? No! The frontage of the store must be widened to 400 feet. 
Why? That beats everything, he says. In the evening when his wife 
and daughter read together, he wants to go to bed. Sundays he looks 
at the clock every five minutes to see when the day will be over — 
what a futile life!" In these terms the son-in-law (who had emigrated 
from Germany) of the leading dry-goods man of an Ohio city 
expressed his judgment of the latter, a judgment which would un- 
doubtedly have seemed simply incomprehensible to the old man. A 
symptom of German lack of energy. 

116. This remark alone (unchanged since his criticism) might 
have shown Brentano {op. cit.) that I have never doubted its inde- 
pendent significance. That humanism was also not pure rationalism 
has lately again been strongly emphasized by Borinski in the Abfiandl. 
der Münchener Akad. der Wiss., 191 9. 

117. The academic oration of v. Below, Die Ursachen der Refor- 
mation (Freiburg, 1916), is not concerned with this problem, but 
with that of the Reformation in general, especially Luther. For the 
question dealt with here, especially the controversies which have 
grown out of this study, I may refer finally to the work of Hermelink, 
Reformation und Gegenreformation, which, however, is also primarily 
concerned with other problems. 

118. For the above sketch has deHberately taken up only the 
relations in which an influence of religious ideas on the material 
culture is really beyond doubt. It would have been easy to proceed 
beyond that to a regular construction which logically deduced 
everything characteristic of modern culture from Protestant rational- 


The Protesta?jt Ethic afid the Spirit of Capitalism 

ism. But that sort of thing may be left to the type of dilettante who 
believes in the unity of the group mind and its reducibility to a 
single formula. Let it be remarked only that the period of capitalistic 
development lying before that which we have studied was every- 
where in part determined by religious influences, both hindering and 
helping. Of what sort these were belongs in another chapter. Further- 
more, whether, of the broader problems sketched above, one or 
another can be dealt with in the limits of this Journal [the essay first 
appeared in the Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik — 
Translator's Note] is not certain in view of the problems to which 
it is devoted. On the other hand, to write heavy tomes, as thick as 
they would have to be in this case, and dependent on the work of 
others (theologians and historians), I have no great inclination (I 
have left these sentences unchanged). 

For the tension between ideals and reality in early capitalistic 
times before the Reformation, see now Strieder, Studien zur Ges- 
chichte der kapit. Organizationsformen, 1914, Book II. (Also as against 
the work of Keller, cited above, which was utilized by Sombart.) 

119. I should have thought that this sentence and the remarks and 
notes immediately preceding it would have sufficed to prevent any 
misunderstanding of what this study was meant to accomplish, and 
I find no occasion for adding anything. Instead of following up with 
an immediate continuation in terms of the above programme, I 
have, partly for fortuitous reasons, especially the appearance of 
Troeltsch's Die Soziallehren der christlichen Kirchen und Gruppen, 
which disposed of many things I should have had to investigate in 
a way in which I, not being a theologian, could not have done it; 
but partly also in order to correct the isolation of this study and to 
place it in relation to the whole of cultural development, determined, 
first, to write down some comparative studies of the general historical 
relationship of religion and society. These follow. Before them is 
placed only a short essay in order to clear up the concept of sect 
used above, and at the same time to show the significance of the 
Puritan conception of the Church for the capitalistic spirit of modern 



absolution, sacrament of, 1 16, 134 
acquisition, as principle of econo- 
mic action, 63 
acquisition, impulse to, 16, 56 
Adams, Thomas, 223, 237, 258, 
259, 266, 267, 269, 272, 281 
adaptation, 72 

(see selection) 
adiaphora, 256, 274 
administration, 25 
adventurers, capitalistic, 20, 24, 
58, 69, 76, 166, 174, 186, 
199, 279 
after-life, idea of, 97, 109 
Alberti, Leon Battista, 194, 202, 

Anglican Church, 82, 99, 179 
Anthony of Florence, 73, 83, 197, 

201, 202 
anthropology, 30 
Anti-authoritarianism, 167 

{see also asceticism) 
architecture, in West, 15 
aristocracy, antagonism to, 150 
aristocracy, commerical, 37, 65, 74 
Aristotle, 14, 235, 244, 249 
Arminians, 200, 217 
Arnold, Matthew, 191, 280 
Arnold, Samuel G., 278 
art in West, 14 
Arte di Calimala, 203 
arts, Puritan attitude to, 168, 272 
asceticism, an ti -authoritarian, ten- 
dency of, 167, 255 
asceticism, definition of, 193-4 
asceticism, monastic, 80, 121, 

asceticism, sexual, 158 
asceticism, tendency of capitalism 

to, 71 
asceticism, types of, 118 
asceticism, worldly, 149, 154 
Ashley, W. J., 280 

Augsburg Confession, 102, 206, 

Augustine, St., loi 
Aymon, Jean, 190 

Bailey, R., 106, 129, 132, 222, 

228, 231, 233, 238, 245, 

Baird, Henry M., 219 
Bank of England, 186 
baptism, 145, 222 
Barclay, Robert, 148, 156, 171, 

252, 257, 269 
Barebones, Praisegod, 243 
Bartholomew's day, St., 156 
Bax, E. Belfort, 253 
Baxter, Richard, 106, 155, 181, 

218, 224, 226 flf., 245, 259 flF. 
Becker, Bernhard, 247 
begging, 177, 268 
believers' church, 122, 144 

{see also sect) 
Below, Georg von, 283 
Benedict, St., 118 
Bernhard, St., 230, 236, 238, 241, 

Bernhard of Siena, 197, 201, 202 
Bernstein, Eduard, 219, 256, 258, 

278, 283 
Berthold of Regensburg, 208 
Beruf, 79, 204 ff. 
Beruf, translation of, 194 
Beza, Theodore, iio, 230 
bibliocracy, 123, 146 
Bielschowsky, Albert, 283 
Bohemian Brothers, 197 
Bonaventura, St., 236, 242, 267 
Bonn, M. J., 217 
book-keeping, 22, 67 
book-keeping, moral, 124, 238 
Borinski, Karl, 283 
bourgeoisie, 23, 24, 176 
Brassey, Thomas, 198 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

Braune, Wilhelm, 207 
Brentano, Lujo, 185, 187, 190, 

192, 193, 194, 198, 205, 209, 

210, 217, 259, 283 
Brodnitz, Georg, 203 
brotherly love, 81, 108, 163, 226 
Brown, John, 219 
Browne, John, 243 
Bryce, James, 235, 268 
Bucer, letter to, 228 
Buckle, Henry Thomas, 44 
Buddhism, 228 
Bunyan, John, 107, 124, 176, 223, 

227, 230, 234, 259, 271, 280 
Busken-Huet, 274, 278 
Butler, Samuel, 168 

Caesarism, Puritan immunity to, 

calling, duty in a, 54, 62 

calling, idea of, 79 ff. 

Calvin, John, 45, 89 
and predestination, 102 
attitude to certitudo salutis, no 
attitude toward wealth, 157 

Calvinism, social organization of, 

Calw, 44 

Campbell, Douglas, 218 

Carlyle, Thomas, 37, 214, 219 

capital, definition of, 17 

capital, origin of, 68 

capital, ownership of, 36 

capitalism, concept of, 16 

Cato, 19s, 201 

Cavaliers, 88, 169 

certitudo salutis, no, 114-15, 129, 
r33, 139-40, 203. 226, 229, 

charisma, 178, 281 

Charles I, 166 

Charnock, Stuart, 231, 232, 235, 
238, 259 

Chillingworth, William, 127 

chosen people, belief in, 166 
(see also elect) 


Christopher, Duke of Würtem- 

berg, 268 
Cicero, 205 
Cistercians, 118 
Cluny, Monks of, 118 
Colbert, Jean Baptiste, 43 
Columella, 196 
comfort, idea of, 171 
commenda, 17, 20, 58 
Communion, admission to, in, 

155 . 
confession, 106, 124, 134, 137, 

confessions, Baptist, 231 

(see also Dordrecht, West- 

munster, Augsburg, Han- 

serd Knolly) 
Congregationalists, 217 
consilia evangelica, 80, 120, 137 
contemplation, 26, H2, 158, 159, 

conventicles, 130, 131, 167, 245 
conversion, 140 
Corinthians, ist Epistle to the, 

84, 164, 206, 208, 214 
Cornelius, Carl Adolf, 253, 255 
counterpoint, 14 
Court, Peter de la, 177 
Cramer, S., 257 
Cranmer, Thomas, 210 
creation, joy of, 282 
Cromwell, Oliver, 82, 156, 213, 

226, 275 
Cromwell, Richard, 251 
Crosby, Thomas, 235 
Cunningham, William, 280 

Da Costa, 226 

Defoe, Daniel, 180, ä8o 

Deissmann, Adolf, 209 

democracy, 224 

Denifle, Heinrich, 211 

Deventer, Provincial Synod of, 

Dexter, H. M., 219, 252, 274 
Dieterich, A., 205 


dilettantes, 29 

Dionysius of Halicarnassus, 209 
Dippel, Johann Conrad, 248 
discipline. Church, 97, 152, 155, 

« discipline, monastic, 174 

distribution of goods, unequal, 

Divine Comedy, 87 
DöUinger, Johann Joseph Iquaz 

von, 107 
domestic industry, 21, 192 
'if Dordrecht, Synod of, 99, 102, 

226, 240 
Dowden, Edward, 176, 221, 222, 

258, 270, 275 
Doyle, John Andrew, 172, 219, 

Dunckards, 150 

Eck Bible translation, 10 

Economic interpretation of His- 
tory {see Materialism, his- 

education and capitalism, 38 

Eger, Karl, 211 

elect, aristocracy of, 104, 121, 
122, 131-8, 151, 242 

elect, membership in, no 

emotion, emphasis on, 131, 135 

Enlightenment, The, 45, 70, 106 

Entzauberung der Welt, 221 
{see also magic, elimination of) 

Erastianism, 2x7 

d'Este, Renata, 237 

Ethnography, 29 

experiment, method of, 1 3 

faith, justification by, 112, 114 
faith, results of, 114 

{see also proof) 
fatalism, 131, 232 
feudal state, 16 
feudalism, 185 

Fieschi, 235 

Firth, Charles Harding, 219, 236 
Fleischiitz, Bible translator, 207 
formalism, as characteristic of 

Puritanism, 166 
Fox, George, 89, 146, 148, 253, 

Francis of Assissi, 120, 146, 254 
Franciscans, 253 
Franck, Sebastian, 121, 220 
Francke, August Hermann, 132- 

3, 138, 246 
Franklin, Benjamin, 48, 50, 64, 

71, 82, 124, 151, 158, .i8o, 

192, 19s, 263 
Frederick, Henry, Stadholder, 

Frederick William I, 44, 250 
Freytag, Gustav, 242 
Froude, James Anthony, 223 
Fruin, Robert, 219, 278 
Fugger, Jacob, 51, 192 
Fuggers, 82, 202, 213 
Fuller, Thomas, 231 
Funck, 201 

Gardiner, Samuel Rawson, 213, 

219, 272 
Gerhard, Johannes, 229 
Gerhard, Paul, 88 
Giles, St., 146 
God, Calvinistic conception of, 

Goethe, Wolfgang, 151, 181, 261, 

Goodwin, John, 246 
Gorichem, Synod of, 260 
Gothein, Eberhard, 43 
Grab, Hermann von, 222 
Grubbe, Edward, 253 

Haller, Albertus, 274 
Hals, Frans, 273 
handicrafts, 21, 38, 65 
Hanna, C. A., 189 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

Hanserd Knolly, Confession of, 
125, 220, 221, 225, 231, 257 

harmony, 14 

Harnack, Adolf, 262 

Hasbach, Wilhelm, 198 

Hebrews, 265 
{see Jews) 

Heidegger, Johann Heinrich, 228 

Heine, Heinrich, 280 

Hellpach, W., 244 

Henry, Matthew, 238, 259, 261 

Heppe, Heinrich Ludwig, 221, 
228, 247 

heredity, influence of, 30, 279 

Hermelink, Heinrich, 283 

Hermhut, 135, 248 

Hertling, Georg von, 188 

historical individual, 47 

Hoenicke, 238 

Hoffmann, 255 

honesty, best policy, 282 

Honigsheim, Paul, 212, 222, 226, 

Hooker, Richard, 127 

Hoops, Johannes, 207 

Hoornbeek, J., 221, 223, 228, 232, 

Howe, Daniel Wait, 219 
Howe, John, 237, 251, 259 
Hudibras, 235 

{see also Bulter) 
Hugenots, 39, 43, 201 
Humiliati, 254 

Hundeshagen, Carl Bernhard, 226 
Huntingdon, Lady, 125 
Huss, John, 95, 198 
Hutchinson, Colonel John, 275 
Huyghens, Constantine, 274 

ideal type, 71, 98, 200 

idolatry of the flesh, 105, 146, 

150, 169, 171, 224, 266, 270, 

Ignatius, St., 119 
Independents, 99, 122, 217, 242 
India, religious teaching of, 265 


individualism, 105, 222 
indulgence, 120 
industria, 73, 196, 197 
inner light, doctrine of, 147 
institution for salvation, church 

as, 227 
interest, prohibition of, 73, 201 
interests, capitalistic, influence of, 

Irving, Washington, 261, 275 
isolation ,of individual, 108 

Jacoby, Ludwig S., 250 

Jains, 191, 197, 228 

James I, 99, 166 

James, William, 232 

Janeway, James, 259, 268 

Jansenists, 221, 222, 229 

Jaspers, Karl, 186 

Jerome, St., 205 

Jesuits, 81, 118, 124, 267, 274, 

Jesus , Jx. —N 

/Jews as minorities, 39, 191 
news as representing adven- 
I turer's capitalism, 186, 271 

Jews, problem of, 187, 197 

Jews, Puritans' relation to, 165, 

Jews, rationalization of, 117, 222 / 
ob. Book of, 164 

Jones, Ruf us B., 253 

joy of living, 41, 42, 45 

joy of living, relation of Puri- 
tanism to, 163, 166-7, 173 

Judaism {see Jews) 

Jülicher, A., 214 

Jüngst, Johannes, 251 

Kampschulte, F. Wilhelm, 218 
Kant, Immanuel, 270 
Kattenbusch, Ferdinand, 255 
Kautsky, Karl, 258 
Keats, John, 44, 270 
Keller, F., 191, 200, 284 
Keller, Gottfried, 107 


Kierkegaard, Soren, 109 

Klages, Ludwig, 186 

de Kock, 226 

Knolley, Hanserd {see Hanserd 

» Knox, John, 45, 219 
Koehler, Walther, 211 
Koester, A., 211 
Köhler, August, 219, 226, 247, 

Kolde, Theodor, 251 
Kommanditgesellschaft, 20 
Köstlin, Julius, 221 
Kürnberger, Ferdinand, 50 

Labadie, Jean de, 240, 241, 245 

laboratory, modern, 13 

labour, division of^_8i^6o, 161 
/labour, rational, capitälTstic'^r- 
*• — ^-^^amzation of, 21, 22, 24, 166 

labour, valuation of, 158 

Lambeth Article, 220 

Lamprecht, Karl, 244, 248 

Lang, J. C, 252 

Laud, Bishop William, 179, 213 

Lavelye, ßmile, 191 

law, canon, 14, 73 

law, mosaic, 123, 165, 2 j i. 

law, natural {see lex natures) 

law, rational structure of, 25 

law, Roman, 14, 77 

Lenau, Nicolaus, 192 

Leonard, Ellen M., 268 

Levy, Hermann, 213, 217, 268, 
279, 281, 282 

lex naturce, 109, 114, 211, 256, 

liberum arbitrium, 57, 77 

Liguori, Alfonso of, 107 

literature, Puritan attitude to, 168 

Lobstein, Paul, 229 

Lodensteyn, Jodocus van, 241 

Loofs, Friedrich, 250, 252 

Lorimer, G., 253 

Löscher, Valentine Ernest, 246 

Luthardt, Christoph Ernst, 214 

Luther, use of "calling," 164, 

204 ff. 
Lutheranism, ethical theory of, 

Lutheranism, moral helplessness 

of, 126 
Lutheranism, relation to Pietism, 


Lutheranism, relation to world, 
87, 160 

Lutheranism, traditionalistic ten- 
dency of, 86 

Lutheranism and Predestination, 


Macaulay, Thomas Babington, 

219, 220, 223, 280 
Machiavelli, Nicolo, 14, 107 
magic, elimination of, 105, 117, 

Magna Charta, 217 
Maliniak, J., 200 
Manley, Thomas, 280 
manors, 21 
Marcks, Erich, 218 
marriage, Puritan conception of, 

158, 263 
masserizia, 195 
Masson, David, 219, 220 
materialism, historical, 24, 55, 

75, 90-2, 183, 266, 277 
Maurenbrecher, Max, 211 
Maurice of Orange, 235 
Meissner, Balthasar, 229 
Melancthon, Philip, 102, 227, 

239, 244 
Menno, Simons, 89, 145 
Mennonites, 44, 144, 149, 150, 

217, 255, 256, 257 
mercantilism, 23, 152, 197, 242 
Merx, Albrecht, 203, 204, 208 
Milton, John, 87, loi, 220, 267 
minorities, 39, 190 
Mirbt, Carl, 242 
missionary, 136, 225 
monasti ism, 118, 119, 158, 174 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

money-lenders, 20 
monopolies, 65, 82, 179, 271 
Montesquieu, Charles Louis de, 

Moravians, 96, 135 
Mormons, 264 
Motley, John Lothrop, 219 
Müller, Karl, 219, 253, 255 
Münster, 149, 253 
Murch, J., 253 
music, 14 
Muthmann, 223 
mystics, German, 79, 86, 112, 132 

Naber, 219 
Neal, David, 235 
needs, satisfaction of, 63 
Neumann, Carl, 273, 275 
Newman, A. H., 253 
Nicklaes, Hendrik, 269 
Nicolai, Philip, 229 
Nietzsche, Friedrich, 232 
Nuyens, W. J. F., 219, 221 

official, 16 

OflFenbacher, Martin, 188 

oikos, 22 

Old Testament, 123 

Oldenbarneveld, Joan van, 99 

Olevianus, J<aspar, 221, 228 

organization, capitalistic forms of, 

organization. Church, 128 
organization, social, superiority of 

Calvinism in, 108 
orphans, Amsterdam, 226 
ostentation, avoidance of, 71 
otherworldliness, 40, 41, 42, 118, 

Owen, John, 237 

Parker, 179 

Parsees, 191 

parvenus, 65, 71, 163, 268 

Pascal, Blaise, 81, 113, 211 222, 

227, 229 
Paterson, William, i86 / 


Paul, St., 84, 159, 160, 212 
Petty, Sir William, 43, 179, 189, 

279, 282 
piece-rates, 59 
Pierson, Allard, 219 
Pietism, 42 
Plitt, Hermann, "247 
Plutarch, 236 
Polenz, Gottlob van, 219 
Poor relief, English, 178 
poverty, glorification of, 136 
Praetorius, Abdias, 229 
Praxis pietatis, 129, 130 
precisians, 117 
predestination, doctrine of, 98 fF., 

i09iT., 121, 125, 128, 131, 
\^ 143,148,226,227,232 
Presbyterians, 125, 146 
Price, Thomas, 219 
Prinsterer, Groen van, 219, 274, 

printing, 15 
privileges, 65 
profitableness, as sign of grace, 

proletariat, 25 
proof, doctrine of, 112, 115, 126, 

129, 133, 137, 141, 142, 

Prynne, William, 179, 269 
psychology, in sociological in- 
vestigation, 31, 244 
Puritanism, attitude to sensuous 

culture, 105 
Puritanism, definition of, 96 
putting-out system, 23, 66, 179 

Quakers, 39, 44, 86, 144 ff., 150, 
{see also Barclay, Robert) 

Rabelais, Frangois, 190 
Rachfel, Felix, i86 
Ranke, Leopold von, 210 
nraribnalism, 2^740, 75 \ 
(see also rationalization)^ 


rationalization, 25, 68, 136, 147 
{see also rationalism ; rn^gic, 

elimination of ) -""" 
" Rembrandt7i69, 273 
Rer»aissance, Puritan relation to, 

Rhodes, Cecil, 42 
Ritschl, Albrecht, 134, 139, 219, 

221, 229, 237, 240, 245, 247, 

Rogers, Thorold, 280 
Roloff, Gustav, 235 
romanticism, 71 
romanticists, 65 
Roosevelt, Theodore, 269 
Roundheads, 88 
Rowntree, J. A., 283 

Sack, Carl Heinrich, 219 
sacraments, 104 
Salmasius, Claudius, 201 
salvation, conditions of, 113 
sanctification, 138, 140 
sanctions, psychological, 97, 128, 

178, 197, 267 
Sanford, John Langton, 123, 217, 

saving, ascetic compulsion to, 

172, 276 
Savoy Declaration, 114, 125, 231 
Schäfer, Dietrich, 222 
Schechter, Solomon, 204 
Scheibe, Max, 221 
Schell, Hermann, 188 
SchmoUer, Gustav, 214 
Schneckenburger, Matthias, 112, 

143, 214, 219, 228, 230, 232, 

Scholasticism, 83, 168 

{see also Thomas Aquinas) 
Schortinghuis, Wilhelmus, 229, 

Schulze-Gaevemitz, G. von, 198 
Schwenkfeld, Caspar, 146, 256 
science, Puritan attitude to, 168, 


science. Western characteristics 

of, 13, 15, 24 
Scotists, 202 
Scotus, Duns, 235 
sea loans, 20 

sect, distinguished from church, 
145, 152,254 
{see also believers' church) 
Sedgwick, Obadiah, 228, 231, 

Söe, Henri, 185 

Seeberg, 211, 214, 215, 219, 235 
Seiss, J. A., 253 
selection, concept of, 55, 72 
Seneca, 205 
Septuagint, 204 
Sermon on the Mount, 250 
Shakespeare, William, 274 
Simmel, Georg, 185, 193 
Sirach, Jesus, 79, 164, 204 ff, 
Skeats, Herbert S., 252 
Skoptsi, 197 
Sloth, 264 
Smend, Rudolf, 204 
Smith, Adam, 81, 161 
socialism, 23 
Sombart, Werner, 63, 75, 185, 

187, 191, 192, 193-8, 200 ff., 

214, 217, 259, 261, 271, 276 
South Sea Bubble, 186 
Southey, Robert, 251, 280 
Spangenberg, A. G., 136,223,248 
Spener, Philip Jacob, 95, 132-5, 

138, 150, 156,222,245, 247, 

257, 262, 266 
Spinoza, Baruch de, 245 
Sports, Book of, 166 
St. Andre, Dupin de, 190 
State, characteristics of, 179 
State, modern, 16, 72 
Sternberg, H. von, 214 
Strieder, Jacob, 284 
Stundists, 197 

talents, parable of the, 163 
Talmud, 83, 165, 207, 270, 277 


The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 

Tauler, Johannes, 86, 208, 212, 

216, 229, 236, 24s 
Taylor, Hudson, 225 
Taylor, J. J., 219 
Teellinck, W., 241 
Teersteegen, 245 
Terminism, doctrine of, 133 
theodicy problem, 109 
Theophylaktos, 209 
Tholuck, A., 240 
Thomas, Alton C, 253 
Thomas Aquinas, St., 80, 150, 

159, 160, 196, 211, 215, 

Thomas ä Kempis, St., 242, 245 
Thucydides, 14 
time is money, 48, 158 
Time, waste of, 157 
toleration, idea of, 242 
traditionalism, 36, 59 ff., 65 fr., 

76, 84, 164, 191, 215, 265, 

Troeltsch, Ernst, i88, 211, 214, 


Tyerman, Luke, 251 
Tyermans, 218 
Tyndale, William, 210 

Ullrich, F., 227, 240 
uniformity, tendency toward, 169 
unio mysHca, 112, 113, 130 
Unwin, George, 280 
utilitarianism, 52, 81, 109, 126, 

161,176, 183, 196,265 
utilitarianism, hygienic, 263 

Van Wyck, A., 227 

value, judgments of, 29, 98, 112, 

182, 236 
Varro, 196 

Veblen, Thorstein, 258, 275 
Vedder, Henry C, 253 
Vischer, F. T., 247 
Voet, Gisbert, 45, 218, 234, 241, 


Voltaire, 77 
Vol gate, 205 

wages and productivity, 60, 198 

Wagner, Richard, 107 

Wahl, Adalbert, 191 

waiting for Spirit, 148 

Ward, Frank G., 214 

Warneck, Johannes, 225 

Watson, Richard, 251 

Watts, Isaac, 251 

wealth, temptations of, 156, 172, 

wealth, uses approved by Puri- 
tans, 171 
Weingarten, H., 219, 277 
Wesley, John, 89, 125, 135, 140, 

142, 175,218,227,251 
Westminster Confession, 99, 220, 

228, 244 
Westminster, Synod of, 99, 102, 

156, 226 
Whitaker, W., 242 
White, G., 246, 268 
Whitefield, George, 125, 251 
William of Orange, 242 
Williams, Roger, 243 
Windelband, Wilhelm, 236, 249, 

Wiskemann, Heinrich, 214 
Wittich, W., 190 
Wolff, Christian, 263 
workers, women, 62 
workSj.^odj^£iS, 117, 148 
workS jSaivatio rrEy . 1 1 ■; . 1 1 6 . 141, 

143, 150 
Wupperthal, 44 
Wyclif, John, 198, 203, 210 

Xenophon, 196 

Zeller, 226 

Zinzendorf, Count Nicolaus, 95, 

132, 134, 138, 143, 178.248, 

Zwingli, Ullrich, 87 
Zwinglianism, 217 

University of California Library 
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